The Lady swept across the floor with the grace and purpose afforded only those benefiting from lavish description of literary prose or dream time disregard for human failings. Languid and sublime her eyes followed her companion as he paced the room agitated and vexed as he sought to know the mind of his god.
The room was dark and vast with shadows hiding secrets of deeds and ages best hidden from the eyes and minds of men. His steps echoed down marble corridors and back through time while her step left no sign of her passing as she was of course neither here, neither now nor even a true to her form and function. Her companion knew her as a lady, as The Lady in fact and nothing else and yet this form was but an apparition; a physical presence to which they could assign a name, an identity, a person where truly none existed. She was after all not a physical thing but rather a concept; a conduit; an artifact.
"There's a war coming, I can feel the distant rumble of the enemy lock step and heretical", his baritone voice echoed through the catacombs. He lowered his helmet into place a thing of dark metal with rigid horns thrust out from the face as if fashioned after something ancient and aquatic. Something one would do well not to stare into or question its origins.
"7", The Lady said turning to the dreamer. "You'll forgive my friend I hope. He has been a devout man for several lifetimes long and bears the scars of his faith. One cannot stare into the furnace of one's god without consequence nor converse with the black and not have one's tongue twisted as a result", the Lady was tall and pale, lovely and distant and spoke with a far away lilt.
"But this time it's different. This time they come with steam, "reason" and logic. They dissect His world and leech from it the wonder and glory. And, and something...else." The man was wearing the trappings of death, of bone mantle and robes of human skin, twisted flesh and pale skin looked off into the dark lost in thought.
"14", the Lady brushed her hair back and moved in a fluid drift. She looked saddened by the plight of her companion. "He seeks to know the mind of his god and in so doing fights darkness with darkness seeing justification and reason, such as it is, where he sees fit. As is the nature of your kind I suppose".
The unholy holy man continued to rave, "This time, this time there's something else. Something just beyond the veil not of their making but an artifact. Something calling to them and whispering corruption into their eager ears. Blasphemy. An arrogance of technology".
"28 and back again," the Lady said turning back to her invisible dreamer. "The worlds want unification and peace."
"And that heathen thinks he can control me and employ my influence to his own ends. He'll face the flames of judgment soon enough. A fitting reward to one who claims to have given fire to man. Heretic!"
"Hardly the blood of innocents" , The Lady's gaze drifted languidly about the room, a candle lit horror of carnage and blood. Cloaked figures lay sprawled amid the trappings of necromantic ritual.
"Well, innocence is a subjective thing isn't it my dear?", offered The Demon at her side. Looking to the knife held absently in her elegant and blood soaked hand he raised an eyebrow and smiled wistfully, "Really, a bloody knife? Something of a cliché as metaphors go wouldn't you say?"
"Yes, well, some things are classics for a reason." Examining the blade with a critical eye The Lady smiled approvingly, "Although sometimes a knife is just a knife and a key nonetheless to deeds that lay hidden 'neath layers of self-deception."
The Lady with timeless grace and silence of ages reached down a pale hand and lifted Clarisse from the floor. The two stood in the shadows above the ritual as it unfolded, Clarisse's nude form lay on the cold stone her eyes heavy with drug or religious stupor. Cloaked figures moved about the room, their steps mimicking a rune carved into the floor as they murmured a long forgotten tongue.
Detached and distant Clarisse watched as the ritual unfolded. As if in a dream, for in fact it was, the events played out with the surreal and removed nature of dream. The binding. The perfect assassin. The blending of worlds. In the shadows a lone figure watched as if conducting through force of will alone. A tall man wearing a dark cowl and darker demeanor he turns towards the dreamer and in a familiar baritone , "They were but a means to an end and mean indeed; base of nature. And yet in the end I too was a dupe of the villain that would bring fire to man and in turn their destruction."
In chorus the others turned to the dreamer, " We never sought the merging of worlds; the destroyer, we were but pawns in a greater game begun long before the memory of man".
Again the scene changes as dreams are wont to do. "Theirs' were but simple ambitions to summon a demon do their will never realizing they were being manipulated by a greater and far darker ambition." The Lady drifted through the scene of the devout and misguided man from the earlier dream as he vilified those that assail his god with technology, reason and science while leeching wonder and glory. His cold stone floor bears the same inscription as did the earlier scene, as does Clarisse's pendant, as is mimicked in the room beneath the Temple of The Veil. "No dear, not his ambition. He is but a misguided soul whose religious fervor distorted his calling over more lifetimes than a man is meant to live. No, he too is but a pawn in the grand scheme of things."
Again the scene changes and now Polidori stands in a placeless place and directs the dreamers view out over a map of the world. "We truly did have the best interest of man at heart. We took upon ourselves to protect man from the fire of his own imaginings, his superstitions and fears. Man is indeed his own worst enemy and we the shield against his own imaginings."
Clarisse wakes. She stands in the dark, in the library of Diadotti holding the map recovered from the sub-basement of the Temple of the Veil. "Some maps are meant to hide not find" echoes in her ears.
Aztec legend: THE END OF DAYS – “ When the great seals align the gods shall return to the world of man with beauty and wonder, and man shall tremble in their passing. Their very whim shall set the lands afire with chaos and fear; their passions shall lay waste the promise of man.”
This is a time of secret and not so secret societies, séances supposedly reach out to the spirit realm treading a fine line between spiritualism and necromancy. The former being all the rage in polite society and the latter strictly forbidden. While the likes of Helena Blavatsky may publically tout the virtues of Theosophy, astral dimensions and Atlantis those that cross line into the practice of compelling spirits and demons do so in darkened halls with hushed voices whispering through the veil. Even so, most are of course led by charismatic charlatans whose focus is less on breaching the veil of the nether realm and more on the far less ethereal goals of founding cults for wealth and power - financial and charnel - in this physical realm. The Hall of the Nameless was not such as this. The Nameless were rumored to have halls in various major cities and their ranks reached the lowest of society and highest levels of nobility and influence. While other so called secret societies enjoyed a thinly veiled intentional celebrity couched in terms of secrecy with secret handshakes, lapel pins and smoking lounges the Nameless rewarded loose tongues and bravado with quick and brutal death.
Clarisse found herself within these halls and learned of things dark and lost to the minds of man. Whispers of the Antediluvians that walked the Earth even today; of demons and devils whose form and nature are dictated by the fears and superstitions of man; of places here and not here just beyond the reach of man and just beyond his knowing. And of something waiting just beyond the veil. A secret only hinted at in ancient texts. This was a black time and demons roamed the halls held in checked by pacts best left unknown and things dark and unspoken lurked behind the oily eyes of those self-appointed priests of the Hall of the Nameless. In 1817 it ended.
Clarisse awoke from a ritual to find herself naked and while all of her fellow members of the hall lay dead she was far from alone. She would never again be alone as she had been inexorably bound to Hercule, a demon infinitely and but a whisper far away. But the others. The member of the Hall lay dead or missing, not simply in this one chamber but everywhere within their sanctum. And not only this sanctum. Her search for answers took Clarisse throughout Europe, Asia and the Americas as well and in each city, in each sanctum she found the same; dead or vacant halls. None of the Hall of the Nameless seemed to have survived the night of the ritual.
While she has no memories of what happened that night one image lingers: a woman. A woman beautiful and timeless looming over her with a gentle smile and comforting words of an unknown language. A dream, a demon or a fevered memory of a fellow member of the Hall she doesn’t know. But the image persists.