From Storm Constantine’s Stealing Sacred Fire
One day, late in the afternoon, as the horses plodded along the trail, Salamiel drew his mount up alongside Shem’s.
“You’ve hardly uttered a word since we left Qimir,” Salamiel said. “What’s going on in your head?”
Shem, who had been lost in his own torturing thoughts, detected a sharpness in Salamiel’s voice. He shrugged. “I’m just thinking about what I’ll do once the key is found.”
“IF we find it,” Salamiel said. “What exactly are we doing, Shem? Will our journey end with the opening of the Chambers? You must know.”
Shem smiled. He could not speak of his doubts to Salamiel. “I don’t know any more than you do.”
Salamiel shook his head. “I don’t believe it. Tell me everything Shem, or must we follow you as blindly as we did before, when we were cast out of Kharsag?”
Shem glanced at him sharply. “You did not follow me blindly, Salamiel. You came with me because you believed what we were doing was right. Isn’t that why you’re with me now?”
Salamiel did not answer immediately. Shem detected a tightness to his companion’s expression, and also a faint corona of angry crimson fire around his body.
“We have never really talked about the past,” Salamiel said. “Perhaps it is time to. I, and your other supporters, despised Anu’s hollow sanctimony. We were filled with a fire to rebel against all that Kharsag stood for. You made us see the truth, Shem; the lie of it. You were our glorious leader. We would have followed you anywhere.”
Shemyaza glanced across at him, but did not speak.
“Don’t you understand?” Salamiel snapped. “We have the chance to redress our failings now. We should go further than we did before. Our people rule this world behind a veil, believing themselves to be superior to the human race, but in truth they are dissolute, power-hungry, and selfish. It is the same as it was in the days of Kharsag, when you recognized that, Shem, and yearned to change it.”
“We are wiser now and less impulsive. We should destroy the dominion of the Grigori; squash the tyrant of Babylon and any others who wield oppression in this world. Think, Shem; this is our destiny! We must raise an army.”
Shemyaza laughed quietly. “We already have an army. There will be seven of us.”
Salamiel uttered a harsh caw of irritation. “Seven? Shem, wake up! I followed you ten thousand years ago because I believed in your strength and in our power to change the world. You fought so hard, and suffered the worst of agonies because of it. But you had fire! You had courage! Remember your Nephilim sons and how you led them in battle.”
Shem did not respond, but gazed silently ahead. His head was filled with images of war and darkness. He closed his eyes briefly. His sons had been monsters, trained by him and inspired by him. They had been bred in bitterness and had wanted to destroy the world rather than change it.
“That was not the Way,” he said softly. “I was wrong.”
Salamiel shook his head. “No, you were right, and you had the support of your brethren. We knew you had doubts, even then. Perhaps I should not reveal this, but the brotherhood made me swear an oath. You had led us so far, we could not return to our old, comfortable lives. But towards the end, we saw signs of weakness and indecision within you. Therefore, it was decided that should you renege on your promises to us, and seek peace with Kharsag, I would be the one to kill you.”
Shem frowned. “You were the closest to me, but for Ishtahar and Daniel. Would you have done it?”
Salamiel sighed. “I would have had to, Shem, no matter what I felt for you. We would have carried on without you.” He paused. “We were parted for millenia, but in Cornwall, fate brought us together again. I have stayed with you since, even though I might have had to wait another ten millenia for you to regain your strength. I was prepared to do it, because I believe in you.” He raised a closed fist before his face. “Our revolution failed in Kharsag, Shem, but we can succeed now.”
Shem pulled a wry face. “Salamiel, you seem to have charged off down a side road. We are not travelling together at this point.”
“You’re not listening to me, are you?!” Salamiel hissed. “I had hoped we’d returned to Eden to turn back history; to win the war we’d lost. We have an army, Shem: the Yarasadi, who are desperate to regain their kingdom. You have ever been their spiritual king. Inspire them now! Find the power within you and wield it! We’ve become immersed in these meaningless rituals of swords and avatars and keys. I don’t understand it Shem, and I don’t like it.”
Shem could see that Salamiel was close to becoming emotional — a rare condition for him.
“You are too impatient,” he said. “Reflect upon what you are saying.”
This answer only seemed to inflame Salamiel’s temper more. “What has happened to you?” he cried, incurring curious glances from their travelling companions. “And what has happened to Daniel? You don’t really believe he had become Grigori again, do you? It’s preposterous!”
Shem smiled. “Not preposterous, Salamiel. It happened, because it was destined to happen. It is a sign — a star that we must follow.”
Salamiel expelled a derisory snort. “Its all too rarified. We should be warriors; not ascetics, mumbling over rituals and searching for omens!”
Shemyaza laughed. “Your rage gives me strength, as it always did. Haven’t you ever wondered [though], WHY our plan to bring lasting change failed in the past?”
“Well, we were thwarted,” Salamiel said, mulishly. “By the treachery of Ishtahar and by the superior force of Anu’s militia. We didn’t have enough time to educate humanity, we…”
“No,” Shem interrupted. “It was because we did not act with love.”
“Love!” Salamiel rolled his eyes in exasperation. “How could we? Our position demanded courage and fire.”
Shem sighed and leaned forward in his saddle, resting his forearms on its pommel.
“I have had time to think in these mountains. It has helped me to analyse the past. I have learned to appreciate that to understand what love is, you have to understand what it is not.
It is not the fire that lovers feel. It is not desire, or lust, or need — those ultimately selfish cravings. Love is not a feeling, but an action. We should not feel it, but DO it; [as] an act of unconditional giving. Daniel has shown me this.”
Salamiel looked at him sourly. “I don’t see what this has to do with our failure in Kharsag or what we have to do now.”
“Ah, but you’re wrong,” Shem said. “Daniel’s experience in Mani’s cave made me realize something. When we rebelled against Anu’s law, we wanted to civilize the human race and give them our knowledge. But that act of giving was not unconditional. There were things we wanted in return: women, submission, reverence, power. Humanity was barely more than children then, and children learn by example. They learned from us and became what they are now. If the world is a hell on earth today, it is the result of our past selfishness. I know you don’t think we need Daniel, and that I am capable of doing what he does myself, but he represents our aim and what the results of success should be: a flowering.”
Salamiel sniffed derisively. “I still don’t see what this has to do with finding keys, and dancing around sacred swords!”
Shem shook his head and sighed. “We are approaching our return to the Source: the Chambers of Light and the knowledge of the Elders that Anu kept hidden from us. In Kharsag, we thought we were so advanced, but we lacked awareness of what we were. We looked upon humanity as children, but we were barely their seniors. They were not ready for the knowledge we gave them, and we were not ready to accept the consequences of our actions. We made changes happen, but they were too quick. Qimir’s swords and the key we seek are some of the tools through which we will channel the bringer of real, lasting change.”
Salamiel frowned. “Which is?”
“I told you: Love. It is what I must give and BE.”
Salamiel uttered a scornful sound. “Why don’t I just nail you to a cross? It seems like you think you must be a sacrifice again. ARE you going to die?”
Shem shrugged. It unnerved him how accurately Salamiel had just described his own fears. “I don’t know. Probably. If that’s what it takes. Sometimes love is cruel. Sometimes it goes beyond death.”
“I can’t believe I’m hearing this. I know you, Shem — you won’t accept sacrifice that meekly. You fought your destiny in Cornwall. Have you really changed that much?”
Shem forced himself to laugh. “No, I haven’t. I’m merely telling you what I’ve thought about these past few weeks. It doesn’t mean I’ve wholly accepted it.”
“Gadreel and the Yarasadi don’t want love, Shem. They want action.”
“No, they want change. The Yarasadi believe that we, as divine avatars of Melek Tawus, herald the advent of the last epoch of the old order. The world will not end after this, but change. Humanity and the Grigori must move on. This is the last chance — for both our races.”
Salamiel frowned. “And how will WE change?”
“Humanity’s destiny is to become more like us; Daniel is the symbol of this. Our destiny is to regain our lost heritage; to become the Anannage once more, but this time we will interact freely with humanity. There will be no lies and no secrets. We will not guard our knowledge jealously, but share it.”
“A dream, Shem.” Salamiel sighed deeply. “Riding along here, I find it hard to believe. I have lived too long and suffered too much. So have you. Ultimately, you will rise up with fire. You’ll not be able to let yourself die for this destiny.”
“I may not have a choice.”
“Oh, you will. It would not be that easy. You wait and see.”