The Many Tales of Blackjack: L'Abbaye des Morts

<A fine place to start.> The old man said, his black eyes unreflective. <The Grigori were the watchers. In the Beginning, God made Man. Whether this happened in Eden's Garden or by some misplaced spark of divinity can be argued. But with the creation of Man, the task was not yet finished. And thus, God sent two hundred of his angels, the Watchers, the Grigori, to watch over Man.>

<That was their mission. To watch. To teach. To complete the act of Creation. But they looked down on the sons and daughters of Man, and they felt... desire.> The old monk said, his face twitching into a smile. <No, I do not know how this was possible. Perhaps in those days the Grigori were less maddened by aeons, or Man closer to the divine source. But the Grigori fell from grace due to lust -- or love, if one feels charitable -- and they bred the Nephilim.>

<Your Mistress was one of the Nephilim.>

<They taught Man forbidden knowledge. The darkest arts of war and sorcery. They came to rule over Man.> Marcel continued. <They did this for desire.>

<But nothing is eternal but the Lord, and with the ages, the Grigori fell away. They had traded away their immortal natures for power on Earth, though few of them realized this at the time. One by one, they completed their missions, taught all that they could, and faded away. Others condemned themselves to sleep, chaining themselves to the Earth. Others cut out their memories and became almost mortal, and dwell among us still, a handful of angels who believe themselves human.>

<But the Servants of the Books would not complete their missions, for they had no desire to give up what they possessed.> The old monk continued. <And so they chained themselves to books and visions, and refused to teach their very last secrets, so as to never fade away. Though, if what Wormwood says is true, perhaps in an eternity of isolation, they have come to change their minds.>

<It does not matter. It is not merely enough to teach Man the secrets.> Marcel said. <But to teach their original charges, those handfuls of mortals whom they desired too much, and who live still, their souls tethered by the wake of a divine, self-inflicted curse.>

Erin stared at him hungrily while he spoke, mesmerized by this new tale. <My Mistress was one of the Nephilim...> she repeated, half-consciously. <The Bible speaks of them living on the earth before the flood... What is Arcadia, then?>

What am I? she wondered silently. It seemed Marcel saw her true face.

<Angels that live amoung us...> she whispered, a bit in awe. <And so these angels and these mortals... they live forever, unaware of it? Or are they reborn over the centuries? How would one know them?>

A question came to mind. <What happens when Creation is "complete?">

<What happens when Creation is complete... perhaps nothing. Perhaps the Grigori leave, their task forever accomplished.> The old monk said, smiling happily. <Or perhaps it shall be something glorious. But no man living knows this.>

<Arcadia is the home the Nephilim made for themselves, when God's flood made Earth too painful for them to dwell in.> Marcel said. <All the hundred worlds which abut this Earth were once only glimmers in the mind of some half-divine entities, separated out to give themselves homes and worlds within which to dwell.>

<The angels themselves, they live and do not live, immortal minds both everywhere and nowhere. Once, the Earth was different, and they could walk upon the soil and stand beneath the sun. Now... I do not think it possible any longer.> The old monk said. <The mortals... just over half a dozen now, they are reborn throughout the ages. The live forever, born and dying and their souls ever being thrust into new forms. Perhaps they remember it. Perhaps they do not. I do not know. Nor do I know how one would recognize them.>

<A hundred worlds... there are others, then, beyond the Nephilim?> Erin asked, eyes wide as she listened to the old monk.

<Was it the flood that changed the world so? And what of the angels that think themselves human?> Erin mused. <Just over half a dozen... seven? Do their numbers dwindle along with the Grigori? Then... though others of the Grigori remain... it is only the Servants of the Books that keep Creation incomplete?>

<There are as many worlds as there are fish in the sea and birds in the air.> Marcel said, spreading his hands wide. <In the old days, it was not so difficult to change the world. Harder now, but yet... not impossible.>

<The Flood, the Divine Curse, the Breaking of the World. Call it what you will. The world was once different.> The old monk said, before wagging a finger at Erin. <Note, I do not say the world was better, though many think it was. But imagine a world where the Nephilim walk freely, and perhaps the Breaking of the World was not so fell a thing.>

<The Watchers that watch no more, that have fulfilled, however unwillingly, their missions... they live among us still. They may not know they are angels, but such power cannot be set aside.> Marcel said. <Only the Servants of the Books have yet to finish their appointed task, and so long as they so remain, then their human loves are tethered to this universe as well.>

<But I do not know numbers. They are few, but to give an exact count? Some sources give them as seven, some as eight, some as nine. Not many.>

"Forget not to show love unto strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares..." Erin murmured to herself, in English. <Could the angels love them still?> she asked Marcel, quietly, and near rhetorically.

She wondered if Wormwood's dream form had spoken true - if a vision like that could lie, or if Wormwood himself was biased or fooled. For it seemed that the seven were kept here by force, not by hope, and none of their behavior showed truth in Oleg's words. But then, Marcel himself had warned the truth was as filtered as light through a prism.

Would it be better, for the angels to finish their missions? If Typhon had taught man war and splitting the atom, what would his final secrets be?

<They are dwindling in power now, it seems. How long ago was it, that they ruled over men?>

<I have come across much of their recent politics, I think. I know it goes back further, for Typhon to call himself the Betrayed King. When do they begin to fight, as they do?>

<Can the Grigori love? A question which cannot be answered. They can obsess certainly, and have done so over the years. But the mind of the angels is not like the minds of men. They are to us as we are to ants, and understanding them is a fraught proposition.> The old monk said, but then he smiled, his starry-black eyes twinkling. <But I am an optimist, and a romantic, and so I believe that they can. For it was love that brought them low, and it is not so easily abandoned.>

<But it has been many aeons since the Grigori ruled mankind. An untold age, or perhaps merely three and a half thousand years, by modern accountings.> Marcel continued. <They have fought from the very beginning, for in falling, they diverged from the divine plan, and so doing lost what had brought them together. The one you call Typhon, who is the Amon of daemons and Asmodai of spirits, was the second greatest of the Servants of the Books, second only to Lucifer, who is also Hecate and Lamashtu. But Lucifer and Amon have ever quarrelled. Asmodeus, him that is Cybele and Attis both, is allied to Amon, as is the Prince of Flies, who feeds his gluttonous urges upon Amon's waste. The great beast Leviathan and cunning Belphagor submit to him who is highest, but both concede pride of place to haughty Lucifer. Mammon keeps his own counsel>

<So I have seen. But the Children of Asmodai claimed their King had five loyal brothers,> Erin mused, stroking her lips slightly. <Verité said he was a fool if he thought it true. Is it so common, for their quarreling to lay them so low?For I have looked for them and found but traces, torn books and broken icons. And even these I have had to search through dreams, and lonely places. Verité had written that destroying the rites that contacted them would end their influence on earth. But it seems they have ways to seep back in to reality.>

<Did Verité ask these questions, when he came? Do you know how he knew to come to this place?> she asked Marcel. <Are there many others, like him?>

<May I ask about your candles?> she cautiously inquired.

<The Grigori are a quarrelsome assembly, and it ever brings them sorrow and bitterness. But they quarrel still.> Marcel said, tilting his head to consider. <The mind of the angel is ever distant to us, and one of these ways is that the Grigori do not -- perhaps can not -- change. The Amon of today is the very same as it was when first it came down to Earth. They do not learn from experience, for to them, time is all of a kind. That the Grigori were once able to break their minds enough to love, or lust, after mortals is a unique occurrence.>

<Verité is half right. Without their books, their followers and servant-creatures, the Grigori have no influence upon Earth, can only rule their hollow halls beyond the fabric of reality. To slice away their connections to this world is to destroy their influence.> Marcel said. <But, it is not quite perfect a solution, for two reasons. The first, is that the Grigori wish to be here, and their wish has the force of physical command. Imagine it as a wooden basin, into which an ever-greater amount of water is falling. If there is a hole in the basin, then the water leaks out. But plug that hole, and the water keeps falling and growing heavier, until sooner or later the basin springs a new leak.>

<The other reason, is for the other question you ask. Those such as Verité are rare, very rare. To have the mind to understand even a glimmer of the Grigori, to have the curiosity to follow their traces, to have the will and the means to find places such as these... this is rare.> The old monk said, looking at Erin. <And yet... it is more common now than it has ever been in human history. There are so many more people, and information flows so much more freely, and travel is so much more accessible. Even were men suc as Verité a thousand times rarer than they were, there are now more questers upon the path of knowledge than ever before. They come, some to here, some to other places such as Black Scholomance, and they ask many questions. Though... few know to ask such questions as you do.>

<You may ask about my candles.> Marcel said, smiling gently. <They are my own way of... draining the basin? To show the Grigori a little respect, that they do not seek to force more.>

<It seems a sad thing, to be laid low by love,> Erin sighed, her blank eyes flicking to the mortals once more.

<Does that work?> she asked, quite interested, about the candles, even if it was a bit rude. <Are there other ways of 'draining the basin'?> Was this another reason why the Cathars had been purged, she wondered silently. It had to look bad to outsiders.

<Are you the only one here, Father Marcel?> she inquired.


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