Out of the Darkness #5 - Cast Down

Ryltar's picture

 And to me he said: "You need not be cast down by my vexation, for whatever plot these fiends may lay against us, we will go on.”This insolence of theirs is nothing new: they showed it once at a less secret gate […]

Through it at this moment a Great One comes. Already he has passed it and moves down, ledge by dark ledge. He is one who needs no guide, and at his touch all gates must spring aside.”-- Dante, The Inferno, Canto VIII: 118-128 --

 He knelt before the throne of the Crusader, feeling nothing but a great, overwhelming sadness.The brightness that continually permeated the room, and in which he had once reveled with his glorious peers, now seemed a harsh, accusing glare, reflecting the mood of its lord. Ahriman cast down his eyes, for he could not bear to look upon the splendour of his surroundings any longer.“ARISE.”The voice that filled his ears was tinged with weariness, but strong, like that of a father chiding a child, that, once again, had not followed his instructions – but Ahriman felt the underlying edge, harder than every steel imaginable, biting into the core of his soul. Keeping his eyes closed, he slowly complied and raised himself, standing face to face with the burning gaze of Raziel, his liege.“IT IS KNOWN TO YOU WHY YOU ARE HERE TODAY, IS IT NOT?”Again, he accepted the stinging words without reply, caught up in a sea of feelings in which he was tossed to and fro.Ahriman felt regret.What he had done was against his superiors’ direct orders, he knew that, but at the time, it had seemed not only the right thing to do, but the only thing, the only choice that he could bring himself to make - the only choice that would not compromise his soul. Though he remembered his teachings, remembered, that for one of his station, the greater good could not be justified by aiding evil, he had believed it to be otherwise, with all his heart.His heart, which was like an open book to those mightier than he, like the Crusader.Again Raziel’s voice tore into his mind, sharper yet this time, as if noticing the self-proclaimed penitent’s unwillingness to recognize his apparent failure.“WHATEVER YOUR HEART MAY HAVE TOLD YOU, AND WHATEVER IT TELLS YOU NOW – IT DOES NOT STEM FROM MY LESSONS, AHRIMAN.


HAVE YOU TRULY FORGOTTEN ALL, IN SUCH A SHORT TIME? HAVE YOU TRULY TURNED YOUR BACK UPON ALL YOUR BRETHREN, THOSE WHO LOVED YOU, THOSE WHO STOOD ASIDE YOU AND FOUGHT EVIL IN ALL ITS SHAPES AND FORMS?”Ahriman felt bile form a clump in his throat, and swallowed hard.“My Liege …” His voice was throaty and raw, a mere dry croak where melodic harmony had reigned just days ago. “I only did what I did because I assumed it to be your w…”“YOU ASSUME MUCH!” Anger flared in Raziel’s voice as he cut off Ahriman in mid-sentence, but was quenched quickly.

“AH, BUT YOU KNOW THE RULES OF OUR EXISTENCE HERE AS WELL AS ANYONE. YOU VIOLATED THEM, CONSCIOUSLY, KNOWING THAT IT WAS THE WRONG THING TO DO, AND DID NOT CONSULT ME OR ANY OF THE OTHERS ON THIS MATTER.”Raziel paused for a few moments, his voice becoming soft but firm.“YOU SAY YOU DID WHAT YOU DID FOR THE GREATER GOOD? NO. I SAY, YOU DID WHAT YOU DID BECAUSE YOU HAVE BECOME SELFISH.”Ahriman shook, his eyes still closed. “No, I …”“YOU HAVE LOST YOUR DEVOTION TO GOOD, LOST YOUR FAITH IN OUR COMMON GOALS – AND IN OUR MEANS. YET YOU COME HERE, HOPING FOR FORGIVENESS?”Raziel’s voice had become comparatively louder and stronger with each sentence, and the brightness in the room had become such that it even penetrated Ahriman’s closed eyelids, leaving dizzying afterimages swimming in his vision..His heart sank. He had hoped that his transgressions would be accepted just one more time, that he might atone for them as he always did, but …“NO, AHRIMAN.” The Crusader’s words spelled doom, ringing in his ears like the clarion call of trumpets and the beating of mighty drums. “YOU HAVE WRONGED OUR CAUSE ONE TOO MANY TIMES. YOU … HAVE FALLEN.”Disbelief, then denial flooded Ahriman’s face, and he finally dared to open his eyes, their once silvery sheen now flickering, dying. “Raziel! No! I swear upon all that is good and holy, I will make up for it! Do not do this! Have … have mercy!”The Crusader turned away from him, a look of grief overcoming his features.“MY JUDGEMENT IS FINAL. YOU KNOW THIS.”Ahriman fell to his knees, overwhelmed by grief, his heart pounding wildly as he was wracked by sobs, his mind unable to deal with all this rationally, just giving in to the emotion. He had lost everything for doing what he believed in.

He hardly felt the hands of those who came to take him away, but later, much later, every detail would be branded vividly into his mind forever, as his features were violently stripped from him. Every pain would be remembered and catalogued – stored … to be used …

Those who carried out his punishment watched him with sorrowful eyes. Always had Ahriman been one to defy, one to break the shackles of goodness in the name of his self-proclaimed freedom, and it had been his downfall. At first blinking away the tears, they then wept openly as they tore off his wings, another champion of Good betrayed by temptation, forcing the forces of Good to take measures that they inflicted not upon their fiercest enemies. Yet, the Crusader's judgement was final, and judgement was necessary to uphold order. This was the thought that helped them, a tiny consolation though it might have been in the face of torture, violence, and overwhelming sadness.

When he left the Gates of the Platinum Heaven later that day, the Fallen could still hear the parting words of Raziel echo within his mind, the final proclamation of his penance.“YOU ARE STRIPPED OF YOUR POWERS, YOUR FAIR FEATURES, AND YOUR NAME.


YOU ARE CAST OUT, FALLEN ONE, UNTIL YOUR SOUL PROVES WORTHY OF REDEMPTION.”Nearly bent double from the pain, both physical and spiritual, still trailing fresh blood behind him, He who once was called Ahriman disappeared from view, staggering slowly toward an unknown fate.Upon the parapets of the gate, two pairs of eyes watched him go.“You feel pity for him”, a voice stated.Raziel covered his eyes with the palm of his hand.“HE IS BUT A PAWN, YOU KNOW THIS AS WELL AS I DO.” Anguish rang in his voice. “AND I HATE HAVING TO SACRIFICE A PAWN, EVEN A SINGLE SOUL, JUST TO KEEP UP APPEARANCES. IF IT WERE TO BECOME KNOWN THAT WE WERE INVOLVED IN THIS ALL ALONG, FROM THE VERY BEGINNING …”He looked the other in the eye.“MANY WOULD FALTER. ALL OVER THE PLANES, THE CAUSE OF GOOD WOULD BE WEAKENED, AS THOSE WHO CHAMPION IT THE STRONGEST WOULD QUESTION THEIR LOYALTIES TO … SUCH AS US. FOR ALL WE KNOW, ALL THAT IS GOOD MIGHT EVEN FAIL, HELPLESS TO THE ONSLAUGHT OF DETERMINED FIENDS.THIS, I CANNOT ALLOW.”The other nodded, and to his relief, Raziel saw no judgement in his gaze.Together, they watched silently, until the Fallen had disappeared from their sight entirely.

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