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The Black Angel

Prologue

The Black Angel
(US)
 
The Black Angel
(UK)

The rebel angels fell, garlanded with fire.

And as they descended, tumbling through the void, they were cursed as the newly blind are cursed, for just as the darkness is more terrible for those who have known the light, so the absence of grace is felt more acutely by those who once dwelt in its warmth. They screamed in their torment, and their burning brought brightness to the shadows for the first time. The lowest of them cowered in the depths, and there they created their own world in which to dwell.

As the last angel fell, he looked to heaven and saw all that was to be denied him for eternity, and the vision was so terrible to him that it burned itself upon his eyes; and so, as the heavens closed above him, it was given to him to witness the face of God disappear among dark clouds, and the beauty and sorrow of the image was imprinted forever in his memory, and upon his sight. He was cursed to walk forever as an outcast, shunned even by his own kind, for what could be more agonizing for them than to see, each time they looked in his eyes, the ghost of God flickering in the blackness of his pupils?

And so alone was he that he tore himself in two, that he might have company in his desolation, and together these twin parts of the same being wandered the still-forming earth. In time, they were joined by a handful of others who were weary of cowering in that bleak kingdom of their own creation. After all, what is hell but the eternal absence of God? To exist in a hellish state is to be denied forever the promise of hope, of redemption, of love. To those who have been forsaken, hell has no geography.

But these angels at last grew weary of roaming throughout the desolate world without an outlet for their rage and their despair. They found a deep, dark place in which to sleep, and there they secreted themselves away and waited. And after many years, mines were dug, and tunnels lit, and the deepest and greatest of these mines was among the Bohemian silver mines at Kutna Hora, and it was called Kank.

And it was said that when the mine reached its final depth, the lights of the miners flickered as though troubled by a breeze where no breeze could exist, and a great sighing was heard, as of souls released from their bondage. A stench of burning arose, and tunnels collapsed. A storm of filth and dust was born, sweeping through the mine, choking and blinding all in its path. Those who survived spoke of voices in the abyss, and the beating of wings in the midst of the clouds. The storm ascended toward the main shaft, bursting forth into the night sky, and all who saw it glimpsed a redness at its heart, as though it were all aflame.

And the rebel angels took upon themselves the appearance of men, and set about creating an invisible kingdom which they might rule through stealth and the corrupted will of others. They were led by the twin demons, the greatest of their number, the Black Angels. The first, called Ashmael, immersed himself in the fires of battle, and whispered empty promises of glory into the ears of ambitious rulers. The other, called Immael, waged his own war upon the Church, the representatives upon the earth of the One who had banished his brother. He gloried in fire and rape, and his shadow fell upon the sacking of monasteries and the burning of chapels.

But in his arrogance and wrath, Immael allowed himself to be glimpsed for a moment in his true, blighted form. He was confronted by a Cistercian monk named Erdric of Sedlec, and they fought above vats of molten silver in a great foundry near Kutna Hora. At last, Immael was cast down, caught in the moment of transformation, and he fell into the hot ore. Erdric called for the metal to be slowly cooled, and Immael was frozen forever between human and Other, powerless to free himself from this purest of prisons.

And Ashmael felt his pain, and sought to free him, but the monks hid him well, and kept him from those who would release him from his bonds. Yet Ashmael never stopped seeking his brother, and in time he was joined in his search by those who shared his nature, and by men corrupted by his promises. They marked themselves so that they might be known to one another, and their mark was a grapnel, a twin-pronged fork, for in the old lore this was the first weapon of the fallen angels.

And they called themselves "Believers".

© John Connolly 2005


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