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The Seventh City

By Voyna All Rights Reserved ©

Adventure / Fantasy

Chapter 1

Prologue

Nephilim are often too boastful for their word to be trusted. From their Bene Elohim fathers they inherited that enraging arrogance. While their Ishim mothers taught them the art of tricking and lying.

But have you ever heard this story they like to tell in whispers, their warm lips pressed against your ear and their cool breath caressing your neck? It is a legend that has emerged for the first time when Helel’s army had made the high walls of Shaarimoth crumble and finally conquered the land of Harab Serapel. Submitting the last Baal. And pushing all Shedim further into the Qliphot.

Whether this story bears any truth is disputable. One would have to be a fool to believe Nephilim. The human in them prevailed whenever they opened their mouths and as the Daughters of Men, their mothers, they liked to distort, to invent, to embellish. It is doubtful any Naphil had dared approach, even at a distance, the ruins of Shaarimoth since the demise of the Seventh City, as they liked to call it.

Simply because it was said the soul of the most renowned Sheid lord still haunted the grounds on which that clumsy, makeshift citadel had been built. Lost forever in the labyrinthine streets of the last true Sheid stronghold. Walking along the ramparts of that fortress that had risen towards the seas of the Malkuth for centuries. Baal Zebul’s spirit would never leave this city he had built with his two bloody hands as final defense against the Nephilim armies that had invaded the Qliphot eons ago. And in a few decades, from the moment Helel’s foot had set onto the rich soil of Thamiel, taken over the palace of Sheol. Burned the forests of Abaddon. And filled with the corpses of Shedim the ravine of Titahion.

All these successes had not erased the fact that this Sheid lord, uncrowned and dethroned with a dwindling number of men to defend the lands of Harab Serapel, Samael, Gamaliel and Nehemoth that remained under his rule, had succeeded in keeping Helel at bay for hundreds of years. But more than that, after he had seen the corpses of his subjects being pushed into the oblivion of Titahion, he had not kneeled and begged the Nephilim and their masters Bene Elohim for mercy.

On the contrary, in his unforgiving rage, he had allied forces with the Malakim of Malkuth, the kingdom of men, and with those of Sephirot. As they had opened the gates to the abode of the Ishim for him, Gehinnom at the border between Nehemoth and Gamaliel had vomited Baal Zebul’s furious Shedim soldiers onto earth.

They had risen from the Seven Seas, riding tall, hoofed beasts that breathed fire and trampled all living souls underfoot. And unleashed their wrath and hatred over the cities the Bene Elohim had built for their Ishim mistresses and Naphil offspring. To lord Sandalphon’s greatest pleasure. He had finally seen his territory be purified from the presence of those dissident Nephilim and their secessionist Bene Elohim masters. It had made all of his relations with the Sephirot so much easier. Less to explain.

However, Baal Zebul’s men had not been satisfied with burning Babylon’s beautiful hanging gardens, destroying fortresses, wiping off temples. No. They had also taken Nephilim children. The young and the defenseless. And with the help of the Malakim, the Shedim battalions had filled their ranks with the offspring of their enemy.

For centuries, the Nephilim had seen their own children marching out of the Gates of Death, high iron doors that still today were Shaarimoth’s only adornment. For centuries, the Nephilim had marveled at Baal Zebul’s perverse genius. They had feared his pitiless arm. How could anyone expect them to enter Shaarimoth now, even if its high gates would remain open forever, when his soul was reputed to dwell in its ruins?! Waiting for the first Naphil infidel that would dare come defile again the Seventh City.

And yet, this strange story persisted, even if no Naphil could ensure having seen it unfold in front of his own eyes. In fact, there was only one class of beings that did not fear the potential ghost of the last Sheid master. Shedim themselves. Pilgrims. Pillagers. Centuries after its downfall, Shaarimoth was still reputed to hold some precious royal artefacts Baal Zebul had saved from Helel’s greed.

Thus, every decade or so, young Shedim having the desire to find valuables they could sell to their new master would venture into Harab Serapel, under the Nephilim’s envious glares. Their journey towards what remained of Shaarimoth was long and tedious. The horses they rode, as if feeling the danger that waited past the border with the land of Samael, refused to follow and they often had to walk to their destination. And yet, they never failed to go and see what lurked behind the widely open Gates of Death.

And yet … And yet, it was said that those that did penetrate into Shaarimoth were never seen again. Obviously, to the young and the courageous, such a threat did not mean much. Especially where riches were concerned. Whenever young thieves were about to set off for Shaarimoth, they would laugh, albeit nervously, at their friends’ frightened warnings. However, it could not have been them that had propagated the legend. Thus, who had? Who was the one that had first told the story?

Have you ever heard it? The story of the Demon Lord and the Harlot who had sat on Seven Hills?

It is said that those who had had the courage to approach of Shaarimoth’s ruins past its high gates had discovered a tower. One last standing tower, archaic reminder of Baal Zebul’s reign. It was not the highest that had existed, nor was it the sturdiest. In fact, one wondered why Helel and his Nephilim had spared it. Whether it had been out of pity. Pity for the tower’s bad foundations and its inclined shape that gave this worrying impression it would topple over at the first breeze. Maybe had they found it amusing to leave as last reminder of another era this Sheid structure that would have been expected to fall the first.

And yet, this tower rose with a certain pride between the ruins of military edifices that had never held any beauty to them. Of course, the easiest for young and impressionable minds was to search for treasures in this last whole structure. Less rubble to turn over. However, the advantage was counterbalanced with the fear of the tower crumbling and engulfing them for eternity. But, as if moved by an unknown craving, a painful desire, they never failed to slither into its loins. How many of their kind had found themselves walking through these primitive galleries that had never been adorned with silks and covered in elaborate, colorful arabesques as the palace of Sheol? Before and after the downfall? Most probably too many souls to be counted.

However, all of them had ended up in front of high, ebony doors. Doors that had nothing in common with the dusty Gates of Death. It was as if the tower had been designed by a madman. All the hallways, whichever the pilgrims chose to walk through, ended up leading to those doors, shining as if polished just yesterday. And shut closed. The last gates remaining shut. Of course, their curiosity would be piqued immediately. Exchanging looks of astonishment, the travelers would silently agree to push the gates open, fear already clawing at their intestines. But excitement overtaking them.

Flattening their shaking palms against the cool wood, they would ally forces. Surprisingly, the gates would give in quite easily. As if their hinges had been oiled just yesterday. In fact, one movement on their part was enough for the doors to slide open by themselves, slowly stirred by an unknown force. The intruders would not fail to take a step back in bewilderment. Bewilderment at the gates moving by themselves. And bewilderment at the darkness that would welcome them. The torches they never forgot to light before entering the edifice would not reveal anything to their eyes. Only darkness awaited past the high ebony gates.

But there always was one. Always one whose eyes shone brighter than those of his companions. Always one that in danger saw profit. And that one would not let the darkness of a simple hall engulf the darkness of his heart. His loins contorting, his mouth drying up, he would take a step into this new hall. Moved by his courage, his companions would not fail to follow. One step would incite another. And another. And another. Until they could distinguish nothing but the light of their torches. Until they became one with the blackness of the room.

That is when a small sparkle would attract their eyes to the front of the chamber. It would bring comfort to their hearts and alleviate their fear. And they would move on. Move towards that small reflection of light that would grow and grow until their eyes could take in the simplistic motives that covered the stone walls of the hall. Finally, they would be able to see each other again. Joy would make them lose sight of the front of the room. They would take each other in, continuing to walk on. When finally, their eyes, turned towards the cupola above their heads, would resettle to the front of the chamber, they would startle and immediately take a step back.

Finally, they saw. The origin of this new light that shone stronger than the flames in their hands. Tens of feet in front of them, it rose. An ice column shining with all the intensity of a cold sun. This everlasting ice froze the pillagers to their bones. But, as with the flies that buzzed about the Malkuth, they could not fight the attraction this strange illumination had upon them. And thus, they would move closer. Until they could make out a shadow imprisoned in the matrix of the stalagmite. And they would move closer. Until they halted barely a few feet away from her.

She stood behind the glass. The pilgrims at that point were not masters of themselves anymore. No fear dwelled in their hearts, no thoughts filled their minds. They were vessels that would have welcomed her had she wished to take them. After all these centuries, the fascination that she had stirred in Malakim, Shedim, Nephilim and Ishim souls alike remained.

A woman. A Sheid? An Ishim? A Naphil? They did not know. They did not care. Her eyes, bordered by thick, black eyelashes, were open wide and stared right through their beings. None of them had ever visited the Malkuth, and thus had never reached Edom. Had never seen the sun wash over its seas. It is the color of those seas that was reflected in her stare. And the tumult the intruders discovered in its depths could be compared to nothing but violent waves hitting high cliffs.

Those were eyes that had seen what was to come. That could have read one’s truths and lies before they had been uttered. But for all her power, she hadn’t been able to foresee her own ruin.

The eyes of the pilgrims would travel to her temple where the race of a droplet of blood had been stopped for eternity, slide down to her mouth, parted in mid-word, find her long neck ensnared forever by dark locks.

They had no idea lords, kings, emperors had come to drink their poison from her lips. They would never know that three worlds, the Qliphot, the Malkuth and Sephirot had rested upon her weak shoulders. They could not imagine that those thin fingers that lay against the glass she had been confined in had wielded swords, slain Nephilim and Shedim warriors alike. They did not know her because her story was untold. And would remain so.

Running down her pale body, the astonished stares of the pillagers would eventually reach her feet. The peace that had settled into their souls as they had beheld her would evaporate immediately. At her feet, a dark mass kneeled. A statue? A man? A woman? They could only tell by moving closer. Immobile as the form was, the only thing the young Shedim could make out were the long tresses of hair that slid down a rounded back. Tresses the color of good wine that like menacing snakes covered the tiled flooring. A floor that looked as if had been waxed just yesterday.

Following those tresses they would realize in dread, in horror, that their feet were already entangled in them. That they had been walking on them ever since their entry into this strange chamber. Horror and dread, fear and alarm could not help them anymore at that point. Just like the doors that had been moved by an unknown will, their feet would shuffle and move onward. Without their desiring it. They would approach the column of light. They would approach the kneeling silhouette, trampling its locks.

The back of the being was wide and strong, the back of a male. It must have been a man. Alive or dead? Crystalized, solidified into rock after centuries of having kneeled at the woman’s feet, worshipped and begged her? They would move closer yet until they stood by him, their group encircling him. Their eyes attracted to his striking profile against their will.

No dust covered his dark cape; his hair had a soft appearance that made one wish to bury his fingers into it. And had it not been for his long, unkempt beard, they would have believed he had gotten washed and dressed barely a few hours ago. The man did not move. He did not stir. He did not seem to breathe. His palm had been flattened centuries ago against the ice that separated him from the woman. This woman that had been his demise.

His eyes, as dull as a dead fish’s but the color of precious opals, were turned upwards as if desperately trying to make her face out through the mist that enveloped them. Each and every time, as if it had been preprogrammed into them, one of the travelers would make the fatal error of extending a hand and wanting to touch the immobile statue shrouded in a dark cape. Maybe to take the cape off and depart with it, for it seemed of good quality and made of a nice fabric. Maybe to verify whether those eyes were not in fact precious stones that could be scooped out with a small knife and sold to avaricious Nephilim.

That movement of a stranger’s hand would wake the man, would wake this last Sheid dwelling in the ruins of Shaarimoth, from his eternal slumber. And slowly, he would turn his neck. His dead gaze would shift to take in the one traveler that had dared lift his hand at him. His long nails would scratch at the glass in front of him, making an atrocious screeching sound reverberate against the walls of the chamber.

His chapped lips that had not let words escape for decades would part. His tongue, as if made of stone, would clumsily hit his dry palate. The pilgrims at that point had no more strength left for fear, for dread. They were already lost to life. Their souls were already desperately trying to escape the fleshy envelope of their bodies.

They should have looked around the glass column in which the worshipped creature slept. They would have seen the bones and skulls among which the woman stood. They might have understood earlier the fate that awaited them. Behind their backs, only one sound was to be heard. The soft gliding of gates against tiled floors. And then, as last reminder of what was to come, the gates were shut closed and locked up without anyone having touched them.

The prostrated Sheid’s body would at that instant be shaken by violent coughs. A red substance would seep through his white lips and soak his beard. Blood. But through those waves of blood, tortured words would filter.

“Hiram … Hiram …”

Destroyer. Destroyer.

The Nephilim have told you the story that exists by itself, that cannot be proved and that may bear no truth. But have you ever seen them? The Demon Lord and the Harlot who had sat on Seven Hills?

Yes?

Then you must be one of us. One of the skulls that had been placed at her feet. As offering, as attempt to protect her from this solitude that had always been her lot. You also were a greedy traveler that had wished to steal remnants of the Demon Lord’s glorious rule. But now, you are one of her subjects.

Behold, she is the Great Harlot who had committed fornication with the kings of the Malkuth. Who had sat on Seven Hills and stretched over Seven Seas. Who had rebuilt the beautiful gardens of Babylon. And in her own glory erected towers that tried to reach the Sephirot the same way the high walls of Shaarimoth had tried to reach the Malkuth.

Oh, you wish to throw rocks at her frails ribs? You wish to vomit your insults at her feet? And to call her the Whore of Babylon? But it is too late now. For you are bone. And you will return to dust, for you have been made of dust.

And you are unjust. Come now, follow the Demon Lord. Repent. Repent for you too have sinned against her. For you too are man. For you too have lusted. Desired what was not yours to possess.

Behold, she also was a child. A pure being that had been born with no sin staining her soul. Look at what her father has made of her, giving her as heirloom those cursed eyes. Look at what her brother has made of her, forcing her to reign when she had desired no throne. Look at what her master has made of her, using her as a shield against her own kin.

Come now; come kneel by the Demon Lord. And come repent. For you too have sinned against the Whore of Babylon.

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