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End of the Beginning: Limited Author's Edition - by Jon Snyder

End of the Beginning


Fall of the Lightbringer

By Jon Snyder

Limited Author's Edition


2013 by Jon Snyder. All rights reserved. Copy, redistribution, or resale either in print or electronically is strictly prohibited.

End of the Beginning: Limited Author's Edition - by Jon Snyder

End of the Beginning, Fall of the Lightbringer Limited Authors Edition 2013 by Jon Snyder. All rights reserved. Published by Jon Snyder and Theos Publishing, P.O. Box 314 Edgemont, PA 19028.

This book is protected by the copyright laws of the United States of America. This electronic copy is licensed for individual use to the intended recipient only. All rights reserved. Copy, redistribution, or resale either in print or electronically is strictly prohibited. Cover and jacket art and design 2013Matrix Design, Inc. www.matrixdesign.us. All images created by Jon Snyder, used with permission or found in public domain without usage restriction.

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data available upon request. ISBN 978-1-62620-441-6 Printed in the United States of America. March 2013

End of the Beginning: Limited Author's Edition - by Jon Snyder

Acknowledgments
I would like to also extend special thanks to everyone who helped make this possible, who believed in me and entertained my fanciful musings over the years. I love you all. To God, gentle, patient, kind and wonderful Savior, what do I have that is not from You? To my loving and amazing wife, thanks for always believing in me. Your love makes me reach higher. Special thanks to Blaike Snyder for the generous support; you are an amazing person. And thanks to all my editors, test readers and people who have helped get this book to where it is now.

End of the Beginning: Limited Author's Edition - by Jon Snyder

Contents
Foreward to the Author's Edition Prologue 1: The Dark Rider 2: Stargazer 3: The Lightbringer 4: Seraphim 5: The Twin Cities 6: Councils and Conclaves 7: Darklanders 8: Marching Orders 9: The Killing Blow 10: Annunciation 11: The Chalice 12: Procession 13: Mount of Congregation 14: Bread and Circus 15: Forging a New Order 16: The Teacher 17: Locks and Tumblers 18: Worn Welcome 19: Dangerous Journeys 20: Semjaza 21: Dark Sephiroth 22: Let the Games Begin 23: Snake Charmer 24: Faceoff 25: Archangels 26: The War in Heaven 27: Alpha Omega 28. Appendix: Angelology, The Biblical Fall of Helel, Placing the Fall in Earth's History |5 |6 |7 | 22 | 34 | 53 | 63 | 72 | 93 | 110 | 116 | 122 | 137 | 163 | 182 | 189 | 211 | 220 | 238 | 248 | 260 | 273 | 287 | 295 | 302 | 308 | 327 | 346 | 357 | 364

End of the Beginning: Limited Author's Edition - by Jon Snyder

Foreward to the Author's Edition


Angels are an intriguing topic. Nearly every culture and religion on the planet include the existence of these mystical beings of antiquity in their belief systems and sacred writings. Consequently, there is a wealth of history and opinion related to their roles, personalities, existence and origins. This book pulls thought and history from a wide variety of sources in order to weave a tapestry tale of the origins of their race - before they were angels. Angels have always been a mystical topic slightly outside the mainstream of religious thought. However it seemed appropriate, while making their plight terrestrial, not to demystify these beings or dial down their supernatural abilities - but rather to keep their abilities in line with what we see written about the characters in various sources through history. Some may argue this decision blurs the lines, making it too secular for "religious markets" or too mystical for secular markets. I'll leave that to the pundits and market experts to determine down the road. But for now, know that you have an intimate, as-the-author-intended telling of this tale. And in that, I hope it challenges all readers in some ways to think outside the norms and find your world to be just a little bigger and the history of these characters to be a little richer.

End of the Beginning: Limited Author's Edition - by Jon Snyder

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Prologue:
The End of the Beginning
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The greatest epic saga KNOWN to man happened millennia before man was known on this earth. Truly this was the end of an age the end of a race. But it would be a mistake to call this tale the beginning of the end. No. As it will be remembered, this is the end of the beginning.

End of the Beginning: Limited Author's Edition - by Jon Snyder

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Chapter 1:
The Dark Rider
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As first light crested the Darkland coastal plains, a glance back over his shoulder confirmed his fears: the dark rider was drawing alarmingly close now and would soon overtake him. Helel shook his head in bewildered frustration. "Impossible. He has actually gained on us in the night." His horse was of the finest pedigree, bred for endurance, strength and speed. Nevertheless, this dark, mysterious pursuer had been slowly closing the once long gap between them over this grueling, lonely ride across desolate, frozen tundra.
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Feeling more alone than ever before and with sickly dread rising in his gut, the High Seraph snapped the reigns and they quickened their pace to a gallop. The frigid, chafing winds assaulted his face and watering eyes and he ducked his head, trying to find some respite from the unforgiving elements. As they rode, the deep crunch of the ice below Daystar's hooves indicated that at times, this region may enjoy brief seasons of sun and green, but now unfortunately, the plain was cold, harsh and unforgiving. These factors had made it nearly impossible to make haste across the treacherous terrain throughout the black of Darkland night. This land was nothing like the warm, lush landscapes Helel was accustomed to navigating. "This rider must be native to this region and well versed in traversing these icy plains. But how could a Darklander possibly know anything of my plans? This journey was of the utmost secrecy." He searched his memories trying to pinpoint when and where the breach may have occurred. He didn't like being in the dark about anything - a vast net of sources kept him apprised of everything happening in his world. Yet in this most clandestine of journeys into the heart of the Darklands where he would be most alone and exposed, this mysterious rider felt emboldened to now draw near and make his presence known. Helel caught first glimpse of this dark figure on the horizon shortly after he and his horse disembarked a large merchant airship that set them down on the icy tip of a peninsula deep in the heart of the western Darklands. That was nearly a full, grueling day's ride ago. Now he was exhausted, both mentally and physically, as neither he nor his horse had rested since first spotting this distant rider. Rather, they had pressed on without sleep through this frigid, dark, and
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seemingly endless night. This time of year, the Darklands never see full light of day, but only a sickly, lingering twilight and impossibly long, dark, cold nights that play havoc on one's mind. Despite all his mental conditioning, Helel was no exception. Endless questions about this pursuer and his intentions beset his weary mind so as to drive him mad as the black night dragged on and on. Never had the first glimpse of dawn been such a welcome friend. As the first dim traces of light crested across the horizon of this barren wasteland, Helel had hoped the day would reveal that he had long since evaded this distant pursuer, leaving him safely behind as nothing but a memory and frightful shadow. Now, however, the fears Helel suppressed for hours flooded his mind, causing his heart to race just as he did across this godforsaken wilderness. Something of his pursuer, his intimate knowledge of his affairs and the deliberate, relentless pursuit caused a dread to rise in his heart that he had never felt in all of his long years. "Calm yourself. Fear is not your master. You are the master of fear, the Lightbringer. Who are you that you should be afraid?" By all logical reasoning he was right. He was certainly a man who commanded respect. More than that, he was admired and beloved world-over. Adored. Certainly his position as supreme high Seraphim should intimidate any man and make him untouchable. Indeed, could the civilized world even survive without him? His kingdom was the center of the world... and he was the center of the kingdom. But Helel was not in civilized lands. He had heard stories of Darklanders. They rejected the orderly, godly society that Helel had created in the Metalands. "Curse this cold, this god-forsaken land and that rider. What can he possibly want of me out here?" he panted in unison with his horse and
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laid his weary head down on Daystar's warm neck, breathing short, nervous breaths into the grey morning air. "This Darklander is most likely not complicated. They are simply thieves and godless outlaws, the lot of them. If it is possessions he wants, I have them in abundance and he can have his fill But if violent desires lay in the heart of this man" The thought of violence gave Helel pause. He had some fighting experience but certainly was not a trained fighter. He possessed no rugged or imposing demeanor that should intimidate a foe. He did, however exude a princely stature that was uncommonly captivating and disarming. His skin was soft and fair. An almost white mane of long shimmering hair added an elegant beauty to his handsome countenance and peak physical prowess. One would be hard pressed to find any physical sign of aging in him despite the fact that he was actually incredibly aged. The High Seraph had, in fact, seen the turn of countless centuries. In all regards he was a prime specimen compared to most any ordinary man and Helel was no ordinary man. The most striking and unique attribute to his appearance, was an array of gemstones centered in his forehead, hands, chest, torso and abdomen. These strange gems, as he contemplated the idea of having to fight against this unknown foe, began to glow and pulsate as though alive with the rest of his body. He tightened his grip on the reins and clenched his teeth, "If it is a fight this man is looking for then God help him. I am the one to be feared not some impotent Darklander." He rode on briskly in the strength of this newfound confidence. But after several minutes, another quick glance back across the plain revealed the dark riders distance growing yet closer and all of his false confidence quickly melted as he only wished his surroundings would; for
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what the Seraph truly feared was nothing so simplistic as robbery or violence. It is easier to mend a body than one's pride. Thus he pondered the one thing that he truly feared: the shame that would surely come if his identity and mission here were discovered. "The Lightbringer on a secret journey to the Darklands ? Scandalous! I cannot be exposed." In the dim morning light he quickly scanned his surroundings for any glimmer of hope that this new dawn should reveal a means of escape or evasion. The narrow ice plains were situated between steep, rugged cliffs to the east and barren coastal regions to the west leaving no shelter to evade the sight of his pursuer. In the distance ahead, he could make out a vast white forest. Any hopes of outrunning him in the span between were dim at best. The rider was now less than a mile behind them and continuing to gain. Helel knew that it was futile, but for lack of a better alternative, he again flicked the reins and they hastened with as much speed as his weary steed could muster. Daystar pressed on for a few agonizing minutes but soon began to slow. Helel pulled his gloves off with his teeth, closed his eyes and placed his hands on the sides of Daystar's head and the gems in his hands and forehead again began to glow and pulsate. Adrenalin surged in both master and beast as though Helel's own sense of urgency had been transmitted into the soul of his steed. But even this new surge only lasted for a few minutes. Daystar, despite his pedigree, was panting and growing irregular now in his gate, showing the natural signs of fatigue from the sustained, hastened pace. They would not be able to continue on like this for much longer. As they drew closer to the dense forest, Helel could make out immense white trees seemingly stripped of bark. The great trees loomed
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ominously as a heavy blanket of cool mist shrouded much of their almost sickly and twisted form in the dim light of the Darklands early dawn. It was clear that any ability to make haste would be lost once in the tangle of forest, but perhaps it was for the best. "It is only a matter of time before Daystar is unable to continue," thought Helel. "Evasion in the forest is our only option now. I pray we fare better there and escape whatever dark designs may be in the heart of this man who would follow me for days to the ends of the earth far past any place that any of Gods good creatures would dare to venture. " Soon the vast ice plain lay behind them and the monstrous silhouettes of the White Forest loomed larger than life immediately ahead. One last time, Helel pushed Daystar to a full gallop in hopes to gain but a little more distance between them and the dark rider as they made the last several hundred yards to the forest. Perhaps with a little extra push, the cover of the woods may give them a means by which to evade their pursuer. Sweat glistened on Daystars brilliant white coat and the sound of his heavy breathing resonated through the palpable silence of the frigid morning air. The thickening curtain of mist that adorned these woods now shrouded their view of the dark rider, but through the mist Helel swore he could make out a shadow even closer than at the last glance. They ripped through the brush at the edge of the woods and began to weave a scattered path through the maze of giant trunks, roots, limbs and branches. This forest was unlike any that Helel had navigated in more familiar, cultivated regions. The trunks of the trees were immense, many were ten feet or more in diameter, with exposed roots protruding two and three feet from the ground as though themselves
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searching for light and trying to escape the cold frozen grave of earth in this dark region. The terrain made navigating this forest more treacherous than Helel had anticipated and any regular path finding was a frustrating impossibility. Helel continued to push Daystar at a frantic pace, though he was now completely fatigued and struggled to maintain sure footing over rocks and roots as they wound a serpentine path under and over endless obstacles. Leafless, lifeless branches snapped as they raced past and tore at Helels fine raiment and fur occasioned to weather these harsh elements of the Darkland winter. From beneath his clothes, the lashing branches brought forth trickles of red blood from torn flesh to adorn the path they traveled with perhaps the only splashes of color this cursed land would enjoy this time of year. Nevertheless, they forged ahead with as much haste as their surroundings would allow until, without warning, Daystar's wearied legs lost footing and stumbled over a cluster of large exposed roots that tangled across their path between the trees. His muscular, shaky front legs were unable to compensate and at last gave way, sending both horse and rider careening headlong into the cold, unforgiving earth where together they collapsed in utter exhaustion. Helel clawed his way up the monstrous roots to get back to his feet. The sound of his heavy breathing and thudding heart was nearly deafening, as, standing in a slump against a great white tree, with blood, sweat and earth dripping from his brow, his attention soon turned to another sound: that of hooves in the distance. "God help mehe's close only a few hundred meters away. How is this possible?"

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He didn't wait for an answer. All Helel could think to do was run. Exhausted and with a sense of impending dread, he ran wildly, desperately - as the dark rider cut his way through the maddening maze and mist with frightening precision. He ran with everything in him, exerting every remaining ounce of his strength. He twisted and snaked his way through narrow passes and tight turns in the dense woods in hope of finding a path where no horse could go or perhaps of finding a place of hiding and escape. He stumbled on weary, rubber legs through the cursed forest and burst into a small clearing and leaned against a tree to catch his breath. The rider was nearly upon him now and he could hear the black, fearsome horse snorting through the mist behind him. "It is no use!" He lamented. "I can't outrun him. His pace is supernatural. The best horse in the known world couldn't outrun him and I don't even have the strength left to stand. This is as good a place as any to face him." Helel's countenance hardened at the realization and he clenched his teeth and set his face like flint. "Come. Do your worst." Beyond physical exhaustion, he staggered into the midst of the clearing and collapsed to take the next few moments to collect himself. With lungs heaving, he knew he would have to draw on a greater power than the limits his physical body possessed. He began to channel metaphysical energy, a talent that none in the known world, frankly, could do more potently. If it was a fight this dark rider was looking for, he would learn quickly why Helel was the highest member of the highest order of Seraphs.

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The very air around him suddenly became alive - electric and crackling with power as Helel practiced his craft. His very body emitted a faint radiance in the murky grey mist of awakening dawn. The gems embedded in his bodys energy centers glowed and resonated with harmonious vibration and Helel began to feel a quickening of energy invigorating in his weary, mortal flesh. An audible, melodic hum came from within the Lightbringer's body and saturated the air, defeating the heavy silence of the lifeless woods. Even the great, white trees themselves seemed to bow and turn in his majestic presence. Moments later, the cloaked rider emerged imposingly from the thick of the wood. His horse was perhaps the largest Helel had ever seen - nineteen or twenty hands high and angrily snorting heavy clouds of hot breath into the cool morning air. The mounted rider towered menacingly over Helel as he knelt in the center of the small clearing. The black horse circled slowly around Helel as if to stir the agony and uncertainty in his mind. Helel tried to remain calm and continued his meditations. His mind and perceptions continued to focus and sharpen as energy from the unseen realm streamed into his body. The rider was no more than mere feet away from him now and with his heightened senses, Helel tried to read his emotions. "I sense nothing from this man. How is this possible?" The rider donned a dark cloak that shrouded his face and most of his body. Beneath the cloak, a high collared tunic covered most of his face leaving only a small slit to make out eyes that glared with an eerie yellow glow, never breaking their gaze. There was very little of the rider that could be seen. His hands were covered by armored gauntlets - but one thing stood out as Helel studied his opponent: the back of each
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gauntlet revealed gemstones on the hands set in ornate silver casings unlike anything Helel had seen before. Each stone appeared to be the same type of gemstone that he himself brandished on his own hands. Beyond the mysterious apparel, it was as though the rider moved in perpetual shadow, a living darkness that made his likeness impossible to see. But even more disturbing to Helel was the fact that his powers of perception could not pierce the blackness that surrounded the rider to ascertain the mood or intent of his dark soul and emotions. Empathy was a skill that came as second nature to the Lightbringer, but now, only feet away from his foe, he was no more certain of this dark figures identity or intentions than he had been for the last twenty-four hours. Helel could take the silence and uncertainty no longer. He didn't want to show weakness but didn't even realize he was still catching his breath until the breathless words came out, "You know who I Am?" The rider chuckled menacingly, "Do I know you?" He shook his head and forced a mocking laugh again as his hands angrily clenched and twisted the reigns of his monstrous horse. The black leather creaked and groaned in his firm grasp and Helel noticed the gems in his hands beginning to glow. As they did, black tendrils of smoke began to seep from the rider's hands. Suddenly, the noxious aroma of burning flesh filled the air. "God help me. WHAT is this man? He is burning from the insideout." The stench of searing flesh nearly made Helel sick to his stomach and he could not mask his appalled shock or sick aversion. "Good, Lightbringer. I can sense your fear. But you do not fear me enough yet. If you truly knew who I am, you would be much more afraid."

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Helel knelt, feeling naked and exposed before this adversary grasping desperately to get some read on the situation. This being was indeed powerful - not some powerless Darklander as he had anticipated and was intentionally exerting a power that counteracted Helel's own growing energy field. Quit at this game. You are obviously no impotent Darklander, so what do you want of me? What do I want? What do you want Lightbringer? The Dark rider practically spat the name with contempt. What does the prince of light in a lone journey to the Darklands truly want? Who do you think you are fooling? Do you believe your quest to be righteous? Do even you in all your wisdom know why you are really here?" Helel was indignant. "You know I am the Lightbringer and presume to speak to me this way? If you truly knew who I am, you would show me both reverence and fear. You only think you know me." "Fool! I know everything about you. I have been overtaking you and infiltrating your kingdom far longer than this pathetic ride. I know you better than you know yourself... better than you can possibly imagine. You think you have power, but your power is limited to your own selfimposed laws. You are weak." Helel bristled with rage. Enough! You know nothing of my power!" He sprang forth with supernatural might. Flying through the thick morning air, he collided with the lofty rider and knocked him from his horse. The two men crashed to the ground and for a brief moment the rider was winded. Helel unleashed his rage with an endless barrage of blows.

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The rider lay lifeless on the unforgiving earth and Helel hesitantly drew back a shaking fist to strike again. "I should kill you where you lay!" Unexpectedly, the rider began to laugh mockingly - a reaction Helel had not expected. "Yes Lightbringer. Hurt me. Kill me. But you can't, can you? That would make you like me." Helel's fist unclenched. His adrenaline and fear told him that beating this man to death would solve his problem, but his moral code prohibited him from going further. This was the only opening the dark rider needed. He exploded out from under the Lightbringer, smashed Helel to the ground and rained down a series of his own blows. The two men grappled for minutes on the cold, frozen earth, trading blow upon blow in a gruesome, bloody death match. Blood poured from Helel's mouth, nose and a gash above his eye, transforming the beautiful Lightbringer into a feral warrior. His knuckles also ached and bled from the ongoing onslaught of his own blows. Yet the two continued relentlessly in a back-and-forth chess match of powerful strikes that shattered earth, rock and trees. It was clear that both men possessed heightened abilities and immense power, but the extent of eithers power was not yet fully realized. Helel scrambled, trying in vain to draw energy from his foe, matching and countering his every move. Neither man seemed to have an upper hand or superior fighting ability. The dark rider rolled on top of Helel, smashing his head against a tangle of roots, dazing him just long enough to try a different tactic. The rider reached into the sleeve of his cloak and the stunned Seraph came to his senses just in time to catch a flashing glint from a metal object drawn forth.

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Suddenly, the long blade cut through the morning air as it sought a more substantial target in Helel. The rider plunged the jeweled dagger with all his might downward through Helels forehead, sinking it through his skull until it lodged with a dull thunk in the solid wood behind him. The dark rider's eyes narrowed, showing hints of a smile of satisfaction from beneath his shroud. It was a clean cut, piercing completely through Helels head front-to-back. The rider sat up almost bewildered that the fight was now over and gazed down at the ruler of the known world pierced so easily with his blade. Ironically, Helel also marveled as he lay staring at the blade between his eyes. He possessed another unique supernatural ability - as he would channel energy and resonate his body at different frequencies, this transcendent ability enabled him to phase his molecules to a higher energy state. In this state, he could pass through walls and solid matter, even walk on water never did he envision that this talent would narrowly save his life as it just had. Helel arose slowly with a smug grin, passing through the rider as the bewildered foe wrenched the blade from its lodging in the base of the tree. More enraged than ever, the rider swung furiously at Helel with wide, wild, sweeping slashes. With each swing of his blade, the weapon simply glided through Helels body. He smiled triumphantly. It would be impossible for this assassin to pierce him or do him bodily harm in this state. Helel laughed, "This fight is over. Go your way and be gone from me." The dark figure burned with rage. I will not be mocked by the likes of you. You think you have won with your little trick? I will show you power that you can only imagine!"
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The dark rider dropped his dagger and ripped the sleeves from his cloak, baring his arms. The rider began to walk toward Helel, channeling energy that screeched audibly and grew louder with each step until a cacophony of hellish nois e seemed to drown out Helels ability to think and channel his own energy. Helel answered back with a blast of pure energy, trying to counteract the assault of dark power and bring the riders frequency into harmony with his own. The dark rider, however, seemed unaffected. The rider grasped the ornate, circular silver casing around one of his hand's gemstone and twisted. Inexplicably, this action seemed to increase his power and the energy he was projecting tenfold. The noxious smoke now poured from the rider's flesh with greater intensity. The dark energy staggered the Lightbringer and he dropped to a knee straining to block out the painful assault on his body, mind and soul. "How can this be? How can there be a being that possesses greater power than I?" It seemed as though every cell in his body screamed and threatened to split apart if the cruel barrage did not cease. He dropped to all fours in agony, no longer able to fight. The dark rider confidently walked forward and stood victoriously over his opponent. He reached down and grabbed Helel's forearms and wrenched his arms wide apart, yanking him up violently so that he could look him in the eye and savor his agony and fear. Who are you? cried Helel. Why why do you want to kill me? He twisted uncomfortably in the clutches of the shrouded figure and tried to free his arms from the vice-like grasp. He succeeded only in grasping a small, dangling shred of the cloak, ripping it off in his hand.

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"Who am I?" The dark figure sneered at the question. "I have many names. If you are the prince of light then I can only be the Prince of Darkness. NOW LOOK AT ME!" The rider ripped the remaining cloak away from the rest of his body to reveal a burned and scarred form beneath. What do you think of me now? All the fear that Helel had felt up to that moment was nothing compared to what he felt now as he gazed upon the true form and gruesome visage of his foe.

Panicked, sweating, heart throbbing so as to burst from his chest, Helel burst awake, grasping at the rich scarlet sheets of his royal sleep chamber. "A dream?" He thought. "Impossible it was all too real!" Drenched in sweat, swimming in his own confusion, Helel tried to process what he had seen and experienced. He may have convinced himself that it was only a dream until he looked down at his fist, still clenched from anxiety. He felt something in his grasp and was remiss to look at it for fear of confirming what he now dreaded. Slowly he opened his hand and looked at the object resting on his palm. He still clutched a small shred of torn black garment from the rider's cloak and quickly dropped it amidst the soft, flowing sheets. Helel looked at it in horror. "The Dark Lord is real."

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Chapter 2:
Stargazer
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Draco awakes! The words came hissing into his conscious thought and Gabrius jerked his head up abruptly from the moonlit, grassy hillside, wondering for a moment where he was. He had nodded off as he spent another night sleeplessly stargazing, peering into the night sky and charting the familiar movement of stars and constellations as he had for so many years. "What was that?" The stargazer thudded his head back onto the hillside and groaned a weary, guttural sigh into the cool, crisp mountain air.

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"Draco Will I never be free from you? I've been tracking you for so long that now I'm hearing your name in my sleep." Gabrius squinted into the night sky in an attempt to make out any discernible change in the Draco constellation. He rubbed his eyes to brush the sleep out of them and bring the distant astral bodies into focus. Gazing into the heavens, he shook his head slightly in disbelief but couldn't help but feel some excitement as he faintly perceived what he had dubbed, "The missing star." "Don't get ahead of yourself. You've been down that road more than a hundred times more than a thousand times. " He slowly rolled his head to the side and gazed up languidly at a towering, modern looking observatory that rose obtrusively from an otherwise humble, rustic home atop the hill. "God, why can I just not let this go?" he sighed in frustration. "I'd love to spend one night without obsessing over theories that I'm never going to prove." The weary astronomer scrunched his eyes shut and tried to switch off his overactive mind and imagination in hopes that he could simply drift peacefully back to sleep. As was always the case, his mind, heart and curiosity won the battle over his weary flesh and he gave one last irritated glare at the beckoning observatory tower before finally giving in. "Alright. OK. I'm up." Gabrius sat up on the hillside and propped his face in his hands, deeply breathing in the mountain air, trying to wake up. The hillside and valley below was lined with tidy rows of well kept crops and vineyards and his hands now showed more the wear of farm work than of scientific astronomical observation. He ran his weathered, muscular hands through
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a full thatch of dark hair that was starting to turn salt-and-pepper with hints of grey. It was unusual in this culture for anyone to show signs of aging and one would think that the focus of his meditations should be to rejuvenate his body and turn back the clock. But Gabrius wasn't taken by vanities and he rather fancied his few streaks of silver. He felt they made him look more scholarly even though it had been a very long time since he had truly felt like much of an academic. "Gabrius, what will it even prove at this point if you find what you're looking for up there? Nobody is even listening any longer." Nevertheless, he finally picked himself up off the comfortable hillside and began a reluctant walk up the hill. The unexpected chill of the early spring night had settled on him and he briskly rubbed his hands over his arms to shrug off the cold as he trudged up the rustic stone stairs that wound around the large, elegant observatory. Inside, the light from a warm, inviting fire bounced off the walls of a short hallway to the right. Gabrius looked longingly down the cozy corridor before reluctantly closing the door to that part of his home. "Not tonight," he sighed and flicked on a light that illuminated a large round observatory lab to the left. He had spent many nights in that observatory rather than in his bed it looked like tonight he would once again peer into the night sky hoping to prove his controversial theories. The large, round office housed countless book shelves littered with years of writing and research. They stretched around the full expanse of the room and disappeared from view behind the focal point of the office, a large telescopic chamber at the center of the room. An array of smaller telescopes of variant sizes cluttered a few of the shelves and spilled out in an unkempt pile on the floor at the far side of the room. Every available inch of wall space was covered with charts and
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illustrations that Gabrius had drawn over countless decades of research. The only pieces of furniture were an old desk, chair and a threadbare prayer mat that Gabrius used often as he meditated on his theories. Gabrius wearily plopped down at his desk and looked at a beautiful commemorative clock that hung amidst a wall of other dusty trophies, medals and placards. At one time, he had been considered the foremost astronomer in the world. His astronomical research had made profound discoveries universally embraced world-over. Most notably, the study of the planets, the earth, the moon and the sun had revealed so many observations that now were all but taken for granted: the hours of the day, days of the week, weeks of the month, months of the year, the cycles of the heavens, seasons of the earth. In a more primitive time in their culture where such concepts were unknown, his research was foundational and groundbreaking. With each new discovery, the scientific community hung on his every word and honored him with countless accolades. The inscription on the clock read, "In honor of the founder of Gabriusian Time." Gabrius, however, had long since grown familiar with these inscriptions and accolades of achievements from a lifetime ago. They, like the clock had long since lost their luster and all he noticed tonight was the time: 02:14. He propped his elbows on the desk and again rubbed his face to shake off the last remnants of fatigue. "God give me strength and wisdom yet again, I pray. Time to get to work." He picked up a curious silver band that lay on his desk and placed it upon his head like a crown. The band immediately began to glow, activating a part of his mind that enabled telepathic activity. "The Stream", as they called it, was a vast collective of telepathically
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"uploaded" information to a universally accessible central source. By simply focusing on a given topic, one could not only communicate directly with other like-minded individuals anywhere on the globe who were also connected to the Stream, but instantly access the collected media and information deposited within the Stream. This data was more than simple information. People could even access the entire visual, tactile and emotional experience of the person who uploaded the memory or data. The Stream, as did virtually all meta-technology breakthroughs, became an instant cultural revolution, especially with the people of Chokhmah who particularly prided themselves on wisdom and knowledge. Gabrius had to admit that he was highly fond of the technology. As a scientist, the access to a collective of thought and the ability to contribute to it was highly appealing. But more so, his prior schooling and attempts at developing supernatural, metaphysical abilities had not really taken shape. This little, commonplace piece of equipment gave a small glimpse into what it must be like to wield great metaphysical, telepathic power. He already had a wealth of information a nd disappointments uploaded to the Stream regarding his phantom constellation, but something in his heart told him that tonight would be different. He pondered what to say for a moment before again reintroducing his thesis: Since the creation of earth, light from distant stars has been travelling hundreds, thousands and millions of light years in its yearning to beautifully adorn our night starscape. How different our night sky must have looked in the dawn of creation before it was so widely speckled with these heavenly bodies so differing in glory from one to another.
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Many of you familiar with my work know that for quite a while, I've predicted that these stars are more than beautiful lights in the heavens simply purposed to divide the day from the night. Rather they are divinely ordered. Messengers from God, proving his existence and divine order, useful for signs and seasons, prophesiers of great events and the mysteries of the ages and who knows, maybe they even tell each of our stories as well. To those who don't embrace the notion, you all are probably aware that many years ago, I made a prediction about a constellation BEFORE it formed in order to prove divine order. Tonight we will again test that theory and observe the coordinates for my missing star that will complete what I call Draco, The Dragon, a deacon constellation within The Bowman. You can research my predictions and math as well as what I believe the divine message of Draco is to the world. If tonight, we indeed find this missing star, we shall all find our world a little bigger; and this discovery should give credence to these controversial theories... Gabrius ripped the band off his head, severing the connection with the Stream and sank his face into his hands, shaking his head in frustration with his own zeal. "You are getting ahead of yourself yet again. And if you are wrong yet again you'll look overconfident and foolish for even saying that." His heart, however, convicted him that despite all of his setbacks and years of disappointments, he was still on the right path and on the brink of something so much larger than himself.
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He looked at a faded picture that sat on his desk of a beautiful young woman. "Oh Adie thanks for always believing in your crazy husband. You were the one good thing that came out of our years at the Crystal Academy. Let's see if we can't finally show the world tonight that I'm not totally crazy."

It had indeed been a long time since Gabrius began chasing this missing star to prove his theories. More than two centuries, in fact. And the years weighed on him now, despite an undaunted, interminable, childlike hunger for knowledge and discovery that, at this point, frustrated the simple astronomer more than anything. At first, in the wake of his early achievements, Gabrius could do no wrong in the eyes of the scientific community and he easily packed out lecture halls promoting new theories of star groupings and their messages as new science. But the constellations, if they had any answers at all, raised far more questions than they answered; and his theory, no matter how interesting, was met with little more than sideways curiosity and no small amount of skepticism. Their society valued the individual expression of a person's gifting as it was supposed to be "the expression of God" through that person to benefit all mankind. But none of this later research helped bring order to society or perfect their races mastery over the elements of earth, physics and metaphysics. If there was a currency in their culture, it was a person's ability to contribute meaningfully to society. The mystics of their day highly valued prophecy. But Gabrius' stellar predictions, while he personally believed them to be divinely guided, were little more than obscure and esoteric snippets and stories: Virgo, the virgin giving birth, a lion chasing a fleeing serpent,
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unbalanced scales and a Redeemer to balance them, Draco, the deceiving dragon - none of these themes meant anything to the masses, to the respected sages or mystics of their age or even to Ga brius, himself, for that matter. He wondered if these messages, if they were more than just fanciful musings, were even meant for their age at all. With the appearance of each new star and supposed constellation, Gabrius hoped to find the answers he needed, piece the puzzle together and bring order to his theories - not necessarily even to prove something to the world, but to his own inability to let go. He couldn't help but believe, in spite of all the years and evidence to the contrary that these bodies really were messengers and that their messages were somehow significant to his life's purpose and calling. But each new constellation only added more mystery. So the years and starry nights passed with no way for him to silence the voice that spoke to him through these messengers; and with no way to prove that they were more than meaningless dots in the sky. Little by little, Gabrius lost his fans and following. Some old friends still paid their respects as a credit to his former brilliance and contributions to society. But for the most part, nobody even gave him the courtesy of addressing him as an astronomer now. He was just a stargazer.

Gabrius arose and walked over to the central fixture in the large round observatory, the telescopic chamber. A brush of his hand across a panel by the door caused the monstrous machine to roar to life and an illuminated screen display of coordinates popped up on the panel. From here he could recalibrate and reposition the great telescope to the desired position for an optimal view of the desired heavenly bodies.

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He smirked at the all too familiar coordinates. It was no surprise that it needed no rotation or calibration to give a perfect view of Draco. He opened the door to the confined interior space within: black, painted walls and a tight circular staircase leading up to the observation chamber. He stepped inside and caressed the doorframe as one would a loved one. "Don't let me down tonight." As Gabrius pulled the door securely closed behind him, he was plunged into total blackness. The lack of any ambient light helped give an unhindered view of the astral bodies. He had climbed those black stairs so many times, he needed no sight to do it. Gabrius quickly clanged up the metal stairs to the observation chamber which was already beautifully illuminated with a majestic, magnified view of the heavens. As he eased into the comfy reclining chair in the observation chamber, he couldn't help but laugh at the boyish excitement he still felt every time he used this great contraption that he had built from scratch with a few of his colleagues. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath to calm the nerves, "Here we go again." As he gazed into his magnified view of the night sky, his heart rose in his chest. Twinkling in the heavens was one final star forming the tail of the great dragon. He rubbed his eyes and looked again. It was there and it was unmistakable. He checked the coordinates and the math. "It's right on!" He checked it again in disbelief. "You beautiful, late blooming, little angel!" The final star of Draco had appeared just as he had calculated. His bottom lip quivered a bit and he fought back the tears of two hundred years of disappointments that now blurred his majestic view of the stars.

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For hours he couldn't take his eyes off of it for fear than when he looked back it would vanish. But there it stood twinkling before him as a resolute reminder that his heart hadn't been lying to him all these years about messages in the stars. Not only was he right about all of this, he had never felt so close to his destiny and to God as he did in this moment. Another thought that previously hadn't been an issue crept into his consciousness, "What now?" His mind swam over the sea of implications. It was unlikely that he would pack any lecture halls with his findings as he had in the old days. But even if he could go back to a life in the scientific spotlight he wasn't sure he would. His own self-illusions that he was a great mind or leading scientist were long gone. He knew there was nothing special about himself. He loved God, loved a simple life - but still could hardly contain the excitement he felt now. "OK, one step at a time. You know this will change everything, but for now, humble beginnings. Evidence. Documentation. Capture some pictures. Upload them to the Stream. Maybe actually think about sleeping more than two hours tonight. That's a good start." He was about to start documenting his findings when he suddenly heard banging on the outer door of his observatory. "Is there actually someone at my door? Who in their right mind would be here at this time of night?" He ignored the sound and quickly began capturing images. Suddenly he heard banging again which paused for a moment and then resumed even more loudly. "Hello?" he called. "Is someone out there? If you can hear me, I can't get to the door right now."

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"Of all the times" he thought to himself as he listened anxiously for a response or to hear if the knocking would cease. He heard nothing and after a minute, Gabrius breathed a sigh of relief. However, within his office below, the knob of the door began to tremble and shake. Untouched, the interior lock slowly began to slide open, seemingly of its own accord and the door quietly cracked open as a lone intruder stealthily let himself into the lab. Gabrius was already back to work when, without warning, a sharp rap came on the interior door that led up to the observation chamber. The knock startled Gabrius out of his seat. "I know that door was locked. How did?" Gabrius jumped up and clanged down the loud, metal stairs as the door below flew open. Light flooded the black chamber and he stumbled down the last few steps, blinded and squinting through the uninvited, assailing light. He slowly rose and held up a hand to block the light. His eyes ached at the sudden adjustment and he strained to make out the silhouette standing before him. I'm an emissary from the capital. You are being summoned to Berul and must come with me immediately!

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Draco, the Dragon whose tail divides the stars of heaven

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__________________________________________

Chapter 3:
The Lightbringer
__________________________________________

Helel hadn't been able to sleep after his frightful encounter. His mind still raced with visions of the night before, replaying the image of the Dark Prince over and over. He paced through the gardens of his expansive, lushly landscaped rooftop balcony long before dawn, brooding over the meaning of it all. Each passing moment brought him closer to daybreak when he would have to perform his weekly duty to the world as the Lightbringer. Glints of light on the horizon told him it was almost time. The thought was actually a relief. It would not only occupy his mind but perhaps in his meditations he would find answers.

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The Lightbringer donned his long priestly robe and strode to the portion of his balcony where every week he would make his customary opening benediction that inaugurated the Sephiroth, the Scherubimi race's most sacred of rites. Below his balcony, Eden bathed in a waxing glow of golden morning light. The early spring flowers were in bloom throughout the gardens and the air was sweet with fragrance. He breathed their aromas deeply and cleared his mind. "Aah, Eden, you never fail to inspire."

The tiered gardens of Eden were indeed the most breathtaking spectacle on earth and stretched for countless miles around the great tower that served both as Helel's palatial residence as well as the greatest religious shrine in the world. The entire mountainside over time had been excavated, cut back and leveled off to create a vast, sprawling expanse of tiered and stepped landscape gardens which showcased every variety of natural beauty imaginable. Some tiers were small, others more than a mile in length and breadth. Each tier, however, was purposefully crafted to accentuate the beauty and diversity of each distinct type of living beauty on display in that section of the garden. Architectural adornments, fountains, pools, walking paths and gazebos were situated as points of interest throughout many of the gardens for rest, reflection and meditation while accentuating the beauty of the great greenscapes. The Mountain of Beryl was aptly named for its many deposits of various colors of crystal and beryls which provided natural monuments of beautiful gemstone. These stones sparkled colorfully in the morning sun and gave a surreal beauty to areas of the

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garden throughout the day as they would capture sunlight and colorfully filter its light. In many places, the most gifted artisans had been selected to sculpt large sections of crystal and rock into elaborate statues of animals and plants. The tiered walls had many staircases which allowed people to walk from level to level but also contained great and beautiful mosaics, frescoes, stone work, metal work and painted art of all sorts, each taking decades of artistic input to perfect. Eden's waterways, large ponds and waterfalls, all fed by refreshing mountain springs, had also been carved into the mountainside to provide romantic gondola excursions for the many couples who vacationed in the gardens throughout the year as well as to give room for every variety of floating flower and beautiful aquatic plant life. While the gardens drew many vacationers and visitors because of their beauty, far more travelers sojourned to the holy mountain for religious reasons. They came to Eden from each of the twelve great kingdoms to meditate and worship because it was said that the veil between Heaven and earth was most thin here while the Lightbringer inducted the Sephiroth. Already this morning, pilgrims were starting to gather at the base of Babel-One, the great obelisk-shrine that towered above the center of the garden. This immense tower was far more than a simple temple or religious symbol. It was the crowning achievement of Helel's kingdom. Architecturally it represented the greatest building than man had ever erected. The lower floors below Helel's residence contained many small individual rooms and dwellings reserved for travelers, sojourners and pilgrims who wished to stay at this holy site for spiritual pursuits. Each

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dwelling had a small porch or balcony connected about the base of the tower by a colonnade of pillars. At the heart of the tower, grand stables provided lodging for travelers' horses. Air travel was generally prohibited in the airspace above the upper gardens, but one floor of the great tower served as a hangar for Helel's own private airships. Above the residences and stables, a vast cathedral used for worship spanned the full girth of the great edifice; and above that was Helel's private residence which covered another entire floor of the structure. The impressive living quarters were surrounded on all sides by expansive windows and arches leading to a 360 degree garden that overlooked the greater Edenic gardens below. Above Helel's residence, the tower narrowed and rose to the heavens. With the exception of large porthole windows located on all six sides of the hexagonal obelisk, the remainder of the structure was purely functional - comprised of a vast elevator shaft, winding stairs and smooth, glistening silver walls that housed the immense scaffolding which served to provide the structure required for this towering feat of architecture. Babel-One stood aloft as the crowning jewel of mankind's achievement, the tallest structure ever built, roughly a mile in height, shining with the brilliance of the sun and visible as a beacon of truth for countless miles around. Its height was further accentuated by its location at the pinnacle of the Mount of Beryl, which had come to be called "the mountain of God" because of its significance in the holy ritual of the Sephiroth. Far more than its architectural marvels, it was this latter purpose that truly represented the greatest advancement for mankind. Babel-One was the largest of thirteen great, hexagonal obelisks erected to augment and transmit meta energy across the globe powerfully enough to unite the
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world around this important ceremony; and it was for this purpose that Helel would shortly ascend to the pinnacle of the tower where he would perform his service to the world.

The crowds outside of Babel-One had grown and Helel graciously waved to his adoring public in the final moments before initiating the Sephiroth. For the first time all morning he smiled genuinely as the sight of the crowds lifted his spirits. Finally the moment they had all been waiting for arrived. The sun crested the horizon in the East and its light beamed through large prisms in the courtyard below. The crowd burst into applause as they bathed in rainbows of morning light and anticipated an even more glorious illumination. Helel strode to the edge of the platform and held his hands up for silence. The gems in his hands and head glowed and as was the usual response, the crowd grew louder for a moment before finally settling down. At times Helel liked to give a longer benediction, but today he had only the thought of moving on from the night before in his mind and he pronounced a simple prayer that he had prayed a thousand times, "May the light of Akatriel come to you and shine through you on this day of our holy Sephiroth! Let there be light!" The sound of cheers filled his ears and he sauntered proudly back into his home. At the very middle of the central room in his residence, a curious circular arrangement of three scarlet couches sat surrounded by a circular white staircase that rose into the ceiling. Helel walked into the midst of the three couches that framed the circle but didn't sit. He looked up at his vaulted ceiling as suddenly six panels circled back to create an opening. Immediately the seating area began to
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rise through the opening in the ceiling and gain speed upwards into the long shaft of the tower. This comfortable, private lift not only gave him access to his entry at the base of the tower, his private stables and airship hangar, but it also rose the full height of the tower, to its very pinnacle, the Sanctum of Stones, a crystal chamber where the true magic of the tower took place. The long shaft of the tower was lined with an endlessly winding staircase that led to the top as well, but given the height of the tower, it would take far too long to climb. As it was, the comfortable elevator would take nearly the next ten minutes to make its staggering climb to the pinnacle of Babel-One. The six outer walls of the hexagonal tower had large windows that overlooked the vast expanse of land and sea below. Each window had an ornate, diverse etching of the Flower of Life, a symbol of sacred geometry that carried great meaning in their culture and served as a reminder of divine order, the mathematical precision of the universe and the confluence of the sacred divine with the soul of man. Most days he simply gazed out the windows without noticing the etchings, but today they drew his attention and reminded him of what he stood for. He straightened his posture and smoothed his soft robes. "Every revelation has a purpose. It is in my power to stop this darkness that I have seen."

(Sacred Geometry: Flower of Life and the Kabalistic Sephiroth's "Tree of Life")

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Though mentally and even somewhat physically tired from the restlessness of the night before - and despite the burden of his duty, a somewhat arduous twenty-four hours of meditative work that lay ahead of him - this troubled night had given him a renewed sense of purpose. For the first time in quite a long time, he yearned for the Sephiroth's illumination to bring this darkness to light and vanquish it from troubling him ever again. The comfortable lift reached its final destination, a large marble landing where the stairs below and his elevator both met a final, winding, marble set of stairs that led to the Sanctum, the uppermost destination and highest purpose of Babel-One. Helel climbed the stairs with newfound determination and peeled off his robe just outside the great chamber, exposing the radiant stones in his body. The mosaic floor of the crystal chamber gleamed, awash in color, as light from the morning sun bathed twelve smaller, colorful crystalline obelisks, purposefully arranged in a sacred order around two concentric circles on the floor. Within the outer circle, two inverted equilateral triangles set in mosaic crystals on the floor formed a six-sided star and one twelve foot obelisk stood at each of the points. The inner circle of crystals stood roughly eight feet in height. Each was positioned with mathematical precisions to complete a formation known as Metatron's Cube and forming a straight line between the focal point of the circle where Helel would stand and the larger crystals that marked the energy outlets in the outer circle. Each obelisk was made from a different composition of pure crystal designed to amplify both light and the resonations of sound and energy. On their own, there was nothing special about these crystal structures. However, once activated, they would vibrate in harmony with
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one another and with the corresponding gems in the Lightbringer's body to create a chain reaction of metaphysical energy. The view from this chamber was as impressive as the room itself. From his lofty pinnacle, more than a mile above the already high holy mountain, Helel could see every kingdom of the world (for in those days there had yet been no continental divide and every land mass on earth was still connected and visible from this height over Eden). If one were to draw a line dissecting the earth from North to South and then another line from East to West, Babel-One was located at precisely the central point of the earth. The capital cities of the world's twelve kingdoms were centered around twelve great towers similar to Babel-One (though not quite as grand in height) that shared in the purpose of inducting the great ceremony of illumination. Each capital city's obelisk was placed at the center focal point of a Metatron's Cube that not only followed the pattern of the crystal chamber, but the design itself was widely known to be the architectural blueprint of the universe. The fundamental forms of the known physical universe all derive from Metatron's Cube. From the smallest molecules, to the structure of the elements of the periodic table, to the complex bonding of molecules to vast galaxies, all share these fundamental, mathematical blueprints. It was only logical then, that these epicenters of the earth should be positioned in this pattern in order to optimally amplify and relay the Sephiroth's energies.

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Kingdoms, Metatron's Cube & the earth before the first divide
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"The world is waiting," thought Helel as he walked amidst the beautiful stones, now so illuminated with light they seemed to be on fire from within. He took his place at the world's center stage in order to begin conducting his great symphony, the holy Sephiroth. As he began, he drew breath and pulled energy from the metaphysical plane through his soul and into our own realm. As the stones of his body glowed and hummed with life and power, the great obelisks answered back and began to vibrate and resonate in harmony. The dynamic was exponential. Helel's energy fed from the room and the room from him until a crescendo of light, music and metaphysical energy burst from the crystal chamber across the globe to the other Babylonian towers. For the next twenty-four hours, Helel's meditation would power this chain reaction of energy known as the Sephiroth and the world would bask in its glow.

The Sephiroth was the oldest and most sacred tradition of the race of Scherubimi. Since the beginning of time, when the keystone of the earth was laid and the first of their race walked the earth, it had been taught - the meditative path of illumination and the sustenance of existence. In the beginning, there were no great obelisks, just men and mystics trying to grasp a glimpse of the divine and fathom the purpose for their existence. It was Helel, many thousands of years ago who grew in knowledge and wisdom and began to discover the power of metaphysical energy, its sciences and the nature of the force that drives it. The building blocks of this power, subatomic quantum particles would come to be known by men as "the God particle" because of its unique multidimensional properties that bring the reality of unseen "existence" into convergence with the physical world.
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The Sephiroth brought light to their world in every way. Even more culturally transforming than the applied sciences of quantum physics and metaphysics were the diverse effects of the Sephiroth on the soul. No longer were spiritual realities far off and attainable only to the esoteric mystics. The Sephiroth caused the veil between heaven and earth to wane thin for individuals who tapped into the power of the meta force. This sacred rite brought illumination to the mind and soul as well as healing, vigor and rejuvenation to the body. In this sacred ceremony, all became acutely aware of their individuality and simultaneously, of the importance of every individual. The Sephiroth accomplished nothing short of uniting the world. Out of a darker age, the meta brought to life the greatest spiritual, intellectual and artistic renaissance the world has and will ever know as enlightened and divinely guided minds advanced in all the diverse passions and pursuits a man may cultivate. This was the world as Helel now knew it - the world he had created. Their race was at the pinnacle of its existence. Hunger and poverty had been eliminated completely. Every kingdom of the world enjoyed peace. Though the race of Scherubimi were still mortal in theory, advancements in medicine, genetics and nutrition coupled with the power of the meta force which rapidly healed injuries and cured any disease made life expectancy untold. So the world waited with a palpable air of excitement in anticipation of the things the Sephiroth would show them week after week. Helel brought them light and life - and they loved him for it. He was the Lightbringer, the bright morning star that brought illumination and the very presence of God to the world. Of the countless names that will be given to the One True God over the ages, the name the Scherubimi gave to God, or perhaps that God
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gave to them, was Akatriel Yah Yehod Sebaoth. And though no man had ever seen Him, no one could deny the feeling of connectedness they experienced and the impetus of His hand upon their soul during the Sephiroth. Helel felt a proud sense of fulfillment and divine purpose as he spread the knowledge of Akatriel throughout the earth. Many gathered in religious centers to meditate, worship and seek the inspiration of Akatriel for their life's questions and callings. Others would meditate at home or while working at their life's passions. Others made pilgrimages to the different sites of the great Babylonian obelisks as it was believed that each geographical location's energy facilitated a unique manifestation of spiritual revelation - a different point of encounter with the divine.

As heavenly illumination filled Helel's mind, it was for this divine encounter that Helel also prayed today. The vision of the Dark Lord was as vivid and real as any vision he had experienced during the ceremony. His visions were never wrong. Could it be that this dark rider and his power was also real? If so, what would be the outcome of the Dark Lord's plans? Did he possess the power to overthrow Helel's kingdom? As he focused on these troubling questions, he experienced a common sensation of weightlessness and he began to transcend into other planes of thought. Brilliant white light filled his mind's eye. But when he again opened his eyes, the glorious crystal chamber was gone and a world altogether foreign assaulted his senses.

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The warm light of the crystal chamber had faded to a dark and rainy night. Helel's senses quickly adjusted to the noisy, smelly and horribly garish scene around him. He spun around trying to take in the scene and gather his wits. "What is this place?" "Bwaah!-Bwaah!" blurted a loud horn as a yellow vehicle whizzed past him. Its driver was angrily shouting obscenities in chorus. Helel stood in the midst of a great thoroughfare. Cars screamed past him in every direction at a blinding pace, spattering him with wet mist from the dingy road. Everywhere he looked, flashing lights and bright signs with strange writing and photos of people and products littered his view. Amidst the mass of noise, smell and confusion, Helel tried to get his bearings and carefully look for some detail or sign of why this place was significant. He was surrounded by tall buildings that rose callously to the sky, giving no regard for beauty or any attempt to accentuate the aesthetics of their environment. There was no sign of greenery or landscape. Even the sky was devoid of stars - just the flashing lights of obnoxiously loud flying machines, very different from the quiet, elegant airships to which he was accustomed, as they lumbered toward earth, no doubt to land nearby. As he stood gawking at his surroundings, more of the loud vehicles blasted their horns at him and their drivers shouted angrily. Crowds of people gathered on sidewalks in front of the buildings pointing, shouting and laughing at him. The bewildered Seraph made a hasty dash for the side of the road, cutting off traffic as cars screeched to a stop, missing him by only inches. Startled and unnerved, he fumbled his way through a crowd of interested onlookers who were all laughing at his close encounter in the street.
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Helel quietly retreated into a dark alley to find refuge from the screeching cars, crowds and noise of the city. He tried to catch his breath only to fill his nostrils with the overpowering stench of rancid garbage from a rusty nearby dumpster. "This place is an abomination!" he shouted in breathless frustration. The crowd of onlookers just laughed, pointed and muttered in a strange dialect as they went back to their normal lives. "Why would any sane person come here? And why would anyone walk right next to a street with those loud, mechanical deathtraps?" Haste was not common in his culture. When one lives for thousands of years, the destination and the journey are both equally valuable experiences. Scherubimi built grand airships not for the speed of travel but for comfort, recreation and observation. They rode horses to experience nature and get where they were going without littering the landscape with ugly roads that detract from natural beauty. Indeed nothing of his surroundings was familiar. A din of cacophonous racket pierced the night in every direction. There seemed to be no order, no care, no beauty in anything he beheld. Just a rush of people, distracted from life by wherever they were going and whatever they were doing. Helel leaned back against the dumpster and recoiled at the chill. "My God, this is no mere vision I'm actually here. Wherever here is." He briskly rubbed his cold, wet arms, soaked from the misting rain. He realized that he was practically naked as well. Having removed

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his priestly robes before beginning the Sephiroth, he was bare-chested and wore only a long loincloth that hung to his knees. "How foolish these people must think me. Oh Akatriel, how do I get home? Why am I here in the first place?" He stepped out of the alley and tried to hail some of the people passing. Person after person simply looked him up and down and scurried by without making eye contact. They all seemed to speak this strange foreign language. He looked around and around, pondering what to do. Finally he stepped back into the alley and closed his eyes to meditate. Almost instantly, Helel felt a dark presence behind him. He spun around, looking for the eyes that burrowed into his flesh. Then in the shadows, at the back of the alley he saw him, a dark, robed figure, motionless, watching and never breaking his gaze. This figure also curiously stood with his hand on the head of a lone youth at the back of the alley. Helel jumped at the sight and took a couple steps away from the pair. "How did I not notice them here before?" The youth seemed troubled, but not necessarily by Helel's presence, and nodded his head slightly but quickly back and forth as though rehearsing some angry lyric or unholy argument. Helel pitied the youth. He seemed somehow hypnotized by the dark figure playing him as a puppet. Helel was unsure what to do. He was certain this figure was not the Dark Prince he had previously encountered but he felt a similar dark energy from him. "Does the Dark Lord have minions who also do his bidding?"
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The question would have to wait. Suddenly, two radiant beings, robed in white from head to toe, wearing even white cloths across their heads, passed through the walls of the building behind the young man and stood at his side. They made eye contact with the dark figure but said nothing. Slowly and rhythmically they began to pluck at the air around the young man as one plucks the strings of a harp, focusing on his head and points in his back. The young man's demeanor changed slightly although he showed no signs that he was even aware of these two men who phased through the building and were manipulating his energy. "Empaths!" Helel was excited to finally see something remotely familiar in this foreign land. "They are undoubtedly trying to counteract the dark figure's own magic against this lad. Well done." Helel began to stride toward the otherwise strange scene that was playing out around this young man and called out to the two mysterious empaths, "Graces to you and through you my friends!" The simple, short phrase taken from his standard benediction was a common enough Scherubimi greeting, especially when addressing someone actively using metaphysical abilities. It simply conveyed warm wishes that the light of Akatriel should come to a person for their own illumination and shine through them to the world at large. However, the two empaths' heads snapped up suddenly as though aghast and astonished to hear the greeting. Then, a look of confused horror came over their faces as they recognized Helel walking toward them. Only for a moment did they pause, bewildered and mesmerized, before quickly turning to dart back through the wall of the building from whence they came.
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"No! Why?" shouted Helel as he ran to the wall through which they had just passed and slammed his fist against the bricks in frustration. His confusion and mental state made phasing through the wall to follow them an impossibility at the moment. "Wait! What am I to do in this place?" He turned his attention to the dark figure and glared at it angrily. The figure also turned and fled through the back wall of the alley leaving Helel and the young man alone together. The boy yelled angrily at Helel in the unknown tongue. Though he didn't understand the language he assumed that his behavior and attire was unnerving to the already troubled lad. "How do I get him to understand?" He moved toward the boy and gestured for the boy to calm down. "I am the Lightbringer. Lightbringer? Do you understand? I can help you. We can help each other!" The boy just backed up against the back wall of the alley and began to gesture wildly back. His language was nothing more than gibberish to Helel. Like a cornered animal, he grew increasingly agitated and enraged by the second. The youth reached into his coat and pulled out a shiny metal object with a handle and pointed it at Helel. He waved it wildly and menacingly. Helel had never seen a gun. Such objects did not exist in their society as the Scherubimi had outlawed any object meant to take the life of another. The object was meaningless to him - rather intriguing actually. "Clearly this boy is troubled," he thought." It is no wonder the two empaths had been at work on this lad. Perhaps he will respond to my

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empathic energy also." Helel lifted his hand toward the young man to project a wave of peace and tranquility of mind. The agitated young man, however, responded immediately. He cocked back the hammer on the gun and thrust it deeply into Helel's ribs. The pain winded the Lightbringer for a moment but nothing could have prepared him for what happened next. He looked down as a blast of fire, smoke and deafening sound exploded from the device. The ear splitting sound ripped violently through the night air as the pain from the gunshot ripped through Helel's body. He clutched his stomach and doubled over onto the wet, dirty pavement as the boy shouted at him and ran off. "What just happened to me?" The force of the bullet took his breath away and he gasped helplessly for air, trying again to cause his lungs to function. His gut felt like burning embers had been dumped inside of him and he clutched the wound hoping the pain would end. In the street, people yelled at each other excitedly and came running to see what had happened. He looked up to see a crowd gather but the din of their shouts and his view of world around him faded as he slipped from consciousness.

An instant later he gasped for air and found himself back in the crystal chamber. Unlike the night before when he awoke in the comfort of his own bed, he now awoke to searing pain in his gut and the sound of his own gurgling breaths as he choked and sputtered on the floor. Wrenched with sobering pain in this awakening, he grasped, not at his rich scarlet sheets, but at scarlet pools of his own blood slinking across the tiled floor of the chamber.

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As pain and fear filled his mind he lost control of his abilities. The gems in his body sent out a blast of energy that clashed with the energies of the sanctum's stones; and like the gunshot that only a moment earlier had torn through Helel's abdomen, his energy projection carried the fear and bodily torment he felt through the metaphysical plane, projecting it around the globe. Searing pain shrieked across the Metalands tearing like a jagged slash in the mind and souls of those meditating in the meta light. Each soul connected through the Sephiroth now felt a piece of the physical and mental agony that Helel was experiencing. The gravity of his situation was beginning to set in. "If I don't do something, I will die on this floor. I must get help!" Helel tried to get to his knees, hoping to crawl his way back to the elevator but the pain was too intense and his strength poured out as quickly as his blood. He grabbed his wound and collapsed again, writhing on his back in anguish. "Oh God, are these my final moments?" He prayed they were not. The light from his body's gems dimmed as trickles of blood ran across his chest filling their cavities. "Oh Akatriel," he prayed, "All I ever wanted was to serve you." Just for a moment it seemed as though his gems grew bright again. In the center of the room a golden orb of light appeared, shimmering in midair. "That light I should go to it" The strange orb of warm light formed a circle and opened a few inches, filling the room with brilliant light then all went black. The Lightbringer was dying.

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__________________________________________

Chapter 4:
Seraphim
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In the uppermost gardens, Raphael and Remiel went about their usual work of ministering to the crowds, unaware of the pain that was about to ravage their minds and souls. The pair, master and apprentice, were unassuming, the sort of kind and humble souls that you would expect of men who had devoted their lives to monastic service of the Lord and mankind. Both wore woven robes devoid of fancy embellishment save for some embroidery work at the cuffs and hem. Raphael as the Arch Seraph over the Empathic School wore a slightly more distinctive garment that buttoned up the center with a high collar which was usually hidden by his long, dark, wavy hair. He wore a large belt, folded so as to create pockets for his use and tied at the center.
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The two worked diligently, week after week, tending to the needs of all living things in the garden: man, beast and plant life. They had lived simply, happily and humbly in this way for a very long time without upset. All the more unexpected and shocking, then, was the jolt of searing pain that suddenly surged through them, mind, body and soul. As the dark energy triggered by Helel's pain surged through the Metasphere, Raphael doubled over in pain clutching at both his head and chest. It was impossible to discern if the pain he felt was physical or spiritual as the dissonant energy cut through the balmy morning air. Regardless, it felt like a hot, searing knife had been plunged into his head and was ripping a hole straight down through his back. He looked over at Remiel, his understudy, who also lay on the ground writhing in anguish. The crowds around them, mothers, fathers, helpless children also shrieked in pain as the unprecedented event unfolded. People clutched their heads and held their ears trying to make sense of what was happening and block some of the pain that flooded their souls. Parents clawed across the ground trying to hold and comfort their screaming children. Raphael and Remiel, despite their vast power could do nothing but watch, overcome with pain themselves. Slowly the dissonant energy subsided and Raphaels wits began to return to him. The two had fortuitously been tending to one of the more unique trees of the garden during the Sephiroth, administering their mystical fruit to those in need of it. Raphael still clutched two pieces of it in his hands. He looked at the mystical, golden fruit as it gave off its faint glow. He tossed one piece to Remiel. Tend to the crowds. I have to
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Go! Remiel interrupted, knowing his thoughts. Tend to the Lightbringer! The Sephiroth had never ended violently in all their long years and they feared what the cause may be but instantly assumed the worst. Raphael again looked down at the piece of fruit in his other hand. "Just in case." he reasoned and stuffed it deep into the pocket of his robe. He gave a quick nod to Remiel and began sprinting toward Babel-One. The mystical gardens were the top tier in all of Eden's vast gardens. That being said, he was still over half a mile from the base of the tower. As he raced with all his might, the Seraph suddenly became aware of a curious flapping sound and a rush of air over his head. Without warning, Michael crashed meteorically to the ground so close to him that the force of the impact knocked Raphael from his feet. Michael's long blonde hair and blue, embroidered belt that girded the midsection of his otherwise simple, loosely fitted tunic and pants still flapped in the breeze following his rather hasty descent from above. "Michael!" burst Raphael. "If we are going to go about dropping from the sky today, could we possibly do it a bit farther than inches away from crushing me to death?" Michael's powerful body still knelt on the ground where he landed a moment before. Raphael quipped, "Are you going to get up out of your crater and tell me what you are doing?" "There's no time for levity." Michael replied cryptically. "I have just heard from Phanuel and we must go now before it is too late!" As quickly as he had landed, he stood and grabbed Raphael by the belt, wrenched it tightly and drew him close to his side, lifting Raphael off his feet. Then with a nearly gut bursting jolt, Raphael found himself
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rocketing through the air alongside Michael, who with a great leap, carried them both aloft, soaring toward the great mountain obelisk at the center of the gardens. In mere moments and with just two bounds, Michael covered a distance that would have taken Raphael several minutes to run and they landed forcefully at the base of Babel-One. Michael offered only this explanation which confirmed Raphael's initial fears, "Only you can save my brother. Please. Save him." Again Michael pulled Raphael to his side and rocketed upward into the air upward alongside the tower, projecting every ounce of his unparalleled telekinetic ability into a focused vertical burst. Raphael's eyes watered as they whipped through the air and he squinted through his bleary eyes to keep the wind from lashing at them. He groaned to himself as he contemplated the dizzying height, "Probably for the best that I can't see the ground shrinking below me." Michael could not fly, but the burst of meta-kinetic force that he had produced to launch them aloft had now flown them nearly to the top of the tower, almost a mile in the air. A fall from this height would kill Raphael easily and he didn't mind the tight grasp Michael had on his belt now. "I don't think I can go much higher. Get ready!" shouted Michael. "For what?" Raphael cringed. Michael reached into his tunic and pulled out a merka baton, the conventional weapon of a fighting kinetic. He hurled it toward one of the large, eight-foot hexagonal windows on the shaft of the tower just before the two began falling. Then, without warning, Michael hurled Raphael toward the tower just as he had the baton. Raphael and the baton both
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found themselves as unwilling projectiles as Michael fell far out of reach back to earth below. Raphael closed his eyes and cringed, awaiting the imminent impact. The staff smashed a small hole through the window in front of him and he winced as his body finished the job an instant later. Shards of thick, razor sharp glass sliced through his flesh as he crashed awkwardly through the large broken porthole in the side of Babel-One. The lacerations, however, were not his primary concern as he slid uncontrollably across the smooth eight-foot deep window shaft toward another interior pane of glass. "If I can't stop, I'm a dead man." Through the next pane of glass was a steep drop down the mile long central shaft of the tower. If he couldn't stop in time, the vertical drop down would be lethal. Raphael's body bounced off the hard metal window shaft and he clawed at the hexagonal walls, desperately trying to slow his momentum. Shattered shards of glass, now littering the smooth metal walls ground painfully into his already gashed hands and arms as he searched to find anything that he might grasp. It was no use. The Seraph careened headfirst through the second interior pane and, as a desperate final attempt, clutched a large remaining piece of jagged glass that still clung to the window's frame. The thick glass sliced deeply into his hands as he held on with all his might to no avail. Deadly momentum carried his body over the edge and the shard simply snapped off in his hand. Raphael's worst fears were realized: the bloodied Seraph was now plummeting down the mile-long shaft to inevitable death if he could not think of something quickly.

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As he plummeted, the landings of the open, spiraling staircase that wound its way up the tower streaked past at a sickening pace. "If I can just catch a landing" Raphael reached out to try to grab one of the open landings as he fell. However, with the speed of his descent, the hard edge of the unforgiving stairs merely struck his forearms with unforgiving force and a bone shattering "crack"! The attempt had only slowed his fall for a second and with a shattered forearm, another attempt would be even less likely to succeed. Raphael clutched his throbbing arm against his chest as he continued his deadly fall. "Only one option left. God, let this work!" With a well timed, powerful kick off the wall, Raphael redirected his descent toward an open portion of the endlessly long staircase and successfully smashed against the hard, stone stairs with bone breaking force only inches from the edge. "Ouch." Raphael moaned as he tried to move. He took a breath and instantly winced, curling into a fetal position from the agony. He could hear the bones in his rib cage grinding. "That would be five or six broken ribs." He tried to roll over and get to his knees. His arm gave out beneath him and he collapsed on his stomach, peering over the edge. "Yep arm and shoulder are definitely broken too." Suddenly he heard a voice in his head - the voice of Phanuel. "Hurry, Raphael. Helel's life is nearly lost." Raphael groaned, "My dear, at the moment I'm not doing so well either." Raphael looked down the tower's long central shaft and whistled "But an inch or two to the left and it could have been a lot worse. That was a little too close for comfort."
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"You must get to him quickly! I'll telepathically inform the rest of the council." He stretched out the terribly broken arm and snapped it into place as a bloody gash across his face healed almost instantly. All over his body, broken bones and lacerations began to supernaturally mend. Raphael was the greatest healer in the world. He was one of the seven, the order of Seraphim. The seven high Seraphs, each in their own right, were the most powerful beings on the planet. He was empathic, a resonator - and his unique gifting not only gave him the ability to affect the soul (though not on the level of Helel), but more uniquely, he could channel metaphysical energies that profoundly quickened healing and growth in all living things. His own body was a perpetual conduit of this miraculous healing power. Raphael wasted no time. He was instantly on his feet and began to race up the stairs to the top of the tower. He had not fallen far and it would only take him a couple of minutes to reach the top. Raphael's unique gifting also allowed him to exert himself without ever tiring. His muscles regenerated instantly. "Phanuel, are you still with me? You have been monitoring his thoughts? What happened?" "It is unclear. Only after the event did I reach out to him. I know little more than you - only that his presence is now very weak. He has only moments." Raphael wondered what he would find as he reached the pinnacle and raced up the final flight of stairs to the chamber. If anything were to happen to the Lightbringer, Raphael was most certainly the next empath in line to wield the power of the Sephiroth, but this was the first time he had set foot into the chamber. He had many times imagined what
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it was like, but the grizzly sight before him was far from what he imagined. Helel lay pale and cold in a pool of blood at the center of the great crystalline room. "Blessed Akatriel, let me not be too late." He quickly ran and knelt next to the Lightbringer. Helel's wound was still emptying his body of life giving blood. Raphael quickly assessed the situation. "OK. Body is still a little warm." He closed his eyes and reached out soul-to-soul in invisible realms. "I feel you still in there, Helel. Time to come back to us." Energy from Raphael's body washed over the Lightbringer's limp frame and deep wound. Raphael was now in tune with all the cells of Helel's body. His healing intuition told him something was wrong. "There's something inside of him." He rubbed his fingers together and plunged them deep into the open wound and gingerly probed until he felt the foreign piece of metal. "There you are but what are you?" He withdrew his hand from Helel's abdomen and held the smooth, rounded metal object between his bloody fingers. He carefully set the foreign object aside - the answer didn't quite matter at this moment. The Lightbringer's life was in the balance. Raphael conjured as much healing energy as he could and slowly the wound began to close. Helel's body grew warmer, but Raphael could sense that he had lost too much blood. "Helel, my friend, I fear you need a miracle beyond what I can muster. This will take time and that is a luxury that you have none of. Blessed Akatriel, what are we to do?" Suddenly he remembered his last rushed moments in the garden. He plunged his hand deep into his pocket and pulled forth the golden
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piece of fruit he had so hastily reserved for such a moment as this. The skin of the mystical fruit shimmered with its own light. Raphael had taken centuries to perfect this particular wonder of nature. Week after week, year after year, he used his gifts to channel different, specific energies from the meta force into various trees of the garden, infusing them with supernatural qualities. This particular marvel had been plucked from a tree he called "The Tree of Life" due to its unique healing and life-giving properties. The Tree of Life produced fruit so potently infused with life-force meta energy that it rapidly healed wounds and drastically prolonged lifespan - even in animals. Raphael hurriedly ripped back the golden rind and crushed the fruit in his hand. Juice poured out, running into Helel's mouth. The lifegiving nectar began rebuilding Helel's body instantly, creating building blocks of matter within his cells out of the unseen "God particles". Raphael could feel his soul reviving and continued to channel energy into the Lightbringer. "Phanuel, if you are still listening, I think he's going to make it!" At the same time, Michael burst into the chamber and stopped dead at the sight of his brother's lifeless body. He suddenly looked as if he himself had been shot. Truly now, this gruesome spectacle struck Michael more powerfully than any blow and he crumpled to the blood stained floor by his brother's side. Raphael had never seen the great and powerful Michael show pain like this. "My brother, we cannot lose you! I'm sorry I could not protect you. I'm so, so sorry." "He will pull through, Michael. I got to him just in time, thanks to you. There was nothing more you could have done."

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"I've always protected him. How did this happen? Did you find him alone?" Raphael didn't get the chance to answer. At the sound of his brother's voice, something stirred in Helel. He turned his head and struggled to open his eyes, showing the first signs of life since Raphael had arrived. Raphael's healing was taking effect. Helel tried to raise his head to speak but Raphael attempted to silence him placing a hand over his mouth, "Your strength is still waxing. You must save your energy and allow me to work." Helel however would not be silenced. With all his remaining strength he brushed the hand aside and pulled Raphael close enough to be heard clearly. "I have seen the end of all we know. Call for a Counsel of the Thrones!"

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