Originally Posted on April 17, 2019
A Story from the Borderlands
“He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby becomes a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil. Aphorism 146
“The central, singular, core truth that our Creator through many incarnations has tried to make us understand is this; we have no enemies, we are all the children of our Creator. We are all on the same side, in the same boat, sharing the same condition: we live both in the darkness and in the light. We are all falling free over an infinite abyss, the light of our our souls casting shadows among which we walk.
To our sorrow, there will always be those among us who love the darkness more than the light. When we fight one to another, no matter our intent, we are falling into darkness. When we withdraw from one another, we have fallen into darkness. Our joy is to be found in living into the truth of our unity with each other, no matter how fractious and difficult those relationships are.
It is in the study of our own darkness, our own fallen nature, that we can come to know the mind of our Creator, who created both the light and the darkness. How to accept, and how to forgive as our Creator accepts and forgives. How to feel the need to fight the darkness, and channel that impulse, that energy into acts of creation rather than acts of destruction.”
– John de Vieux, The 874th Congress of Wardens – From the talk, Conversations with a Daemon
As John de Vieux arrived in the room without doors he was greeted by screams. The days that start with screams are unusually interesting and always very long.
John had prepared well for his day. He had been using the Shorter Christian Prayer for his morning Lauds devotion these past few weeks, having recently received a new edition. He was enjoying the progression in the readings used in each days morning prayer. Most of his fellow wardens 1 were contemplatives of one type or another, who drew strength from their meditations into the nature of humanity and the divine. John himself after his morning prayer felt centered and focused and on good mornings had a sense of calm expectation. The lesson from his supplemental reading for this morning was particularly apropos – God’s redemption is always available for everyone. John felt relaxed, and at peace.
Today would be a day among days. After breakfast, he was ready for the trip to his work room, not a simple journey in itself, the place without doors where he kept the daemon.
1 The Wardens of the Worlds – Religious-Military order of monks who patrol the ways between the infinite parallel realities of the Earth.
John left his house by the back door. His house was at the end of the street on a cul de sac. The street was located in a rural subdivision near Zanesville, OH. There was a wooded hillside just behind his house, and bearing south through the woods a ravine, which led back between his subdivision and the one to the east. With the neighborhood children in school, he could start shifting between worlds as soon as he entered the woods.
He passed by a long lake, with what looked like a floating temple built of tarred logs with a steeply pitched roof, the tall gables adorned with carvings in the form of intertwined dragons.
He headed uphill and as he passed over the ridge he found himself in a lush tropical rain forest.
Passing through an archway made from a huge living tree it was now night over rolling pasture land, well lighted by a nearly full moon. There was a stone house surrounded by trees on the nearest hillside. John took out a flashlight and walked over to the house, unlocking the door with a very elaborately made key of wrought iron. He stepped into the dark house locking the front door behind him.
Using a different key he opened the back door through which morning sunlight greeted him. He stepped through and locked this door after him as well. Outside, the door was set in wall of solid granite, he was now in a narrow rocky valley running roughly north to south with high granite walls. Large boulders lay all around him and the stone walls had many fissures and cracks, while the ground beneath his feet was covered with shards of the same granite stone. John walked the short distance to the opposite side of the valley, to another stone wall of solid granite, this was the place of the final shift. He checked an app on his phone, then waited several minutes. As soon as it was time, he invoked a magickal weapon with several keywords and took a deep breath, before stepping directly into the solid granite wall in front of him.
The initial bloodcurdling screams increased in volume as John crossed the foyer which led to the work room proper. Master Leonard 2 when the mood suited him, could produce the most pitiable screams, gasps, cries, taunts, threats, and curses at ear splitting volume. John knew from the recorders that Leonard only kept up this caterwaul when he was present, but it was impressive all the same. Educational too. He passed through an archway into the work room. The room was circular, with a rough heavily scarred wooden floor and windowless walls of large dressed stones crudely mortared. The stone ceiling consisted of eight high arched vaults, between which eight brilliantly lit ship glass prisms conducted sunlight into the work room from somewhere above. This natural light only dimly illuminated the circular stage at the center of the room. At the center of the circular stage, Leonard stood with his arms upraised – his horned head tilted back – screaming piteously for all he was worth.
2 Leonard or “Master Leonard” is a demon or spirit in the Dictionnaire Infernal, grand-master of the nocturnal orgies of demons. He is represented as a three-horned goat, with a black human face. He marks his initiates with one of his horns. Dictionnaire Infernal – Jacques Auguste Simon Collin de Plancy – 1818
John entered the room and moved directly to a control panel mounted near the arched doorway to the right. He was careful not to turn his back to the central platform. He pressed a green button on the panel starting the generator, and electric light soon flooded the room. The circular stage was fully three meters in diameter and appeared to be made of a single slab of stone, inset with silver in several concentric circles. The center of the stage had a pentagram also inscribed into the stone in silver. John studied the stage, the state of the silver inlays, making sure that all the defensive barriers were intact; only then carefully restoring to a safe state a magical attack that would have released the equivalent energy of a hand grenade.
As soon as he had ‘safed’ this magical weapon, Leonard ceased his wailing and turned to face him. Leonard was tall, thin in the form of a man, with the face of a goat with three horns atop his head. He was dressed in a tailored button down dress shirt and slacks, with brown loafers on his feet. Other than his strangely shaped and horned head he would have looked right at home window-shopping in a mall, or walking on a golf course playing a round on a Saturday. There was nothing to show that John had kept the daemon Leonard pent in this room for hundreds of years, except for the weariness that John felt in spending long decades in the study of this creature.
“Release me John de Vieux, how can a man like you keep me here year after year, for decades unending.” Leonard said. His voice was rich, resonant and persuasive. “It is inhumane that you confine me in this place, leaving me for decades at a time.”
“You are not human.” countered John, “You do not hunger nor do you thirst in this place. Here you will stay until I can trust you to your parole. You know what I require of you. As soon as I have your oaths of dismissal I will allow you to leave.”
“Who is truly imprisoned here?” asked Leonard trying another argument, “I do not age. You are getting old John. Old and feeble. How unlike the young man who tricked me long ago. How weary you must be of keeping me here. Soon you will be dead, release me and I will be merciful and quick. God cares not for you or me, indeed God has forsaken you, for all your prayers and piety.”
“I do tire of your company, and that is a fact.” answered John, “But it never ceases to amaze me how little you understand me, or my fellow men and women. Countless ages have you plagued us, yet your thoughts are always about yourself. Even when you are seeking to empathize with me, all you can do is probe for weakness. It is not too late for you. It is not God who has forsaken us – it is we who refuse to turn to Him. You know this far better than I.”
John continued, “I can release you from here, I can release both us from this doom. All you have to do is let me live, so that I can allow you to escape this place I have created for your prison.” John gestured with both arms encompassing the room without doors. “If you were human, these wards would have no power to hold you. These wards can only hold you in your daemon form. If you would give up your daemon form, you will be mortal, and I will allow you to leave this place.”
This was yet another variation of their conversation from Johns’ many sessions with Leonard. Time in the room without doors runs many times what it does in most of the realms of man. To Leonard it had seemed as if at least fifty years had passed since John’s last visit. The ship glasses had conveyed the sunlight of each day into this room, each day the same; the weeks passing into months, the months into years, the years into decades. John heard a strange grinding sound and although Leonard made on outward sign of impatience he realized that he was hearing his prisoner gnashing his teeth.
“I have thought of little else.” Leonard said after some time had passed. “It has been so long since I have transformed, I am not sure that I still remember how. Perhaps you should release these wards that hold me fast in this form so I may practice my art?” His voice had softened, as in speaking to his friend instead of his jailer. He also gestured with both his arms to encompass the area within the pentagram. “When you released me from this pentagram of cursed silver, allowing me to stand, did I not pledge that I would not attempt escape? Have I not kept my word?”
“You have indeed. But I have not escaped your long ago promised retribution or today’s offer of ‘mercy’ by being any less careful. I was a young man when I brought you here, more reckless, knowing little of what you are capable. I will have your oaths to not harm any being, living or dead, before I permit you freedom of form. I believe that has been your favorite trick to slip the bonds of even very wary magi. Do not omit your pledges of your conduct in all your forms – know that this place has no doors for a reason. Even one such as yourself would have great difficulty in leaving this place unaided.” John said in a matter of fact way, as he had said similar things many times in the past.
“I am ready. I cannot stay in this room any longer if there is any escape, even if I must forgo my revenge on you… even if I must, give up my powers for a time.” Leonard started his oaths of conduct. He omitted none of the forms, including everyone in all the worlds, to bind him in any form he assumed. It took a very long time. John made sure that the recording devices captured the complete record. Leonard repeated the oaths thrice to bind himself.
John said, “Very good.” He called up the wards and arcane letters appeared glowing in the air in vertical groupings all about the center platform. He released the transformation bindings and immediately Leonard changed into the form of a handsome young man as he sprang from the central platform. He launched himself directly at John tackling him to the floor.
Leonard leaped back to his feet as John lay crumpled on the floor, “Fool, Idiot, you who were the most wise of your race – to release me thus. As a man, I cannot be bound by daemon oaths – you will suffer for your use of me!”
Several pistol shots rang out in the room, from a snub nosed revolver held up by John from his position on the floor. Bright red blood spread from many wounds in Leonard’s abdomen, completely soaking his shirt. Leonard looked truly surprised, “You knew… you were prepared… but, I will just transform…”, he gasped as he slowly crumpled to his knees, “I cannot change.” Leonard said as he completed his slow fall to the floor. He stiffened as he lay in the pooling blood and died.
John slowly rose to his feet while continuing to point the revolver at Leonard. “Yes, I knew.” John said quietly to himself. “It is true, you have not changed.” He was getting too old for this, daemon baiting is a young man’s game. Still, his face expressed great satisfaction. He still lived. It had taken many years, decades of work keeping this daemon pent to learn these techniques. To apply binding wards preferentially as he wished in different parts of this place. This room with no doors, no escape. The years spent in careful converse with a master of lies. Listening to the recordings, learning the languages of the many hells. Mastering his own fears, learning to use both his own darkness and light. Yet, John felt no triumph, he felt empty. John holstered the revolver. He paused for a moment, looking down at Leonard’s ruined body, he had ‘beaten’ Master Leonard today – but what had he won? If only Leonard had chosen if not forgiveness, then at least some forbearance from violence until some future time. It had been an interesting though depressing series of events. When Leonard was free to do so he immediately turned to violence, even when it profited him nothing but trouble.
John turned to the task at hand, caution and meticulous preparation had been his protection these many years. John spoke the words to isolate this room further from the many worlds. The walls themselves were now warded against daemon kind.
He carefully maneuvered Leonard’s body back within the platform onto the pentagram. Once again the air filled with glowing mystic symbols. John re-established the many wards on the platform. As he worked, he breathed the words, “O God make speed to save me.” He quickly erected a metal cage around the warded central platform which was anchored into both the floor and ceiling. He continued the prayers as he worked, “O Christ make haste to help me.” Each post supported cross members such that even a very small child would not be able to escape the platform, “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy upon me.” He cleared the blood from the inscribed silver lines and spread sawdust on the pool of blood on the wooden floor, while repeating these payers over and over as he worked. John then painted obscure symbols on each of the vertical bars until the completed binding wards blazed as if back-lit in neon. John concluded the prayer while crossing himself, “Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Among the many worlds we walk without end. Amen.” Only after all these preparations were complete, did John relax slightly, and release the wards on the outer walls.
John turned away momentarily to write some notes in a log book opened on one of the work tables. As he completed the entry, he felt a presence in the room. When he faced the caged and warded circle again, Leonard’s eyes were open, and he was sitting up, covered with gore. He was still in his completely human guise.
“You know John, you can’t get rid of me that easily.” He said quietly.
“Don’t I know it, Leonard.” John replied.