Location: Nektar’s Cauldron
Timeline: Sixth Age of Substance, 44th Year,Winter (1)
As I took the final step up from The Stairway of Infinity, I stopped…and breathed a sigh of relief.
For even a god can be terrified. (2)
Unfortunately any relief I felt at escaping The Stairway was short-lived because my troubles were only beginning. To begin with the caverns I’d emerged into were ice cold, and as much as I was glad to have returned from Illusia (3), I always hated coming back when it was the winter season in your world (4). Pulling the thick cloth of my ebon robes tighter around my frail body I made my way forward through the darkness – only to pull up short as a new thought occurred.
”Pesties!” I shouted, my voice echoing back through the forsaken caves of my mountain stronghold. “How could I forget? I must see him, immediately!”
With a sinister smile, the bare bones of my jaw silently mouthed another word, “GRIM,” even as new visions of that magical dagger filled my psyche.
For so long – 567 years to be exact! – had I systematically searched for such a supernatural power. And now – finally! — as soon as the Viperz spy Pesties could be brought before me, I’d be able to behold the object of my desire.
“Ah, behold but not touch!” I whispered, remembering all too well how I had lost my entire supply of <hellfire> when I previously made the mistake of touching the blade of another magical weapon — The Ghast – a blunder that forced me to return to Illusia unexpectedly, where I then had to explain my error to Baal-Zebub — and lose The Ghast in the process! (5)
The Ghast. The Ghast. Alas, I was such a fool to have lost The Ghast.
You may recall that I previously told you how I had first obtained the Ghast – when Inanna, that vile Goddess of Lust, had first garnered the weapon for me (after having used her own wiles to steal it from Gwar on the very day that the God of War had earlier won it from the Drrukka king Hacktor Derkillez – now that’s intrigue!). (6)
What you may not know is that I paid a dreadful price for Inanna’s part in the Ghast conspiracy – I still rue the day that I foolishly granted her the Venom of the Viper (7) as payment for her services.
Yet my error with Inanna paled in comparison to the more frustrating fact that I never was able to unlock the secrets of The Ghast’s power — a magical item that I knew was the key to breaking Baal-Zebub’s power over me.
And just like that 663 years of scheming went down the drain.
I consoled myself with a memory — the brief meeting I shared with Gwar directly after I had returned from that visit with ol’ BZ when Lucifer so graciously stole The Ghast for himself.
The God of War had demanded an audience with me and I knew he wanted to grill me for information regarding the theft of his lost trophy from The War of The Ghast.
Fondly now did I think back to that encounter — when I had so cleverly dispatched War with but a trite little tale of deception.
“How did that yarn go again?” I mused. “Ah yes…”
“Fear not, Oh Glorious Gwar,” I said to the God of War as his image (8) appeared before me, “The Ghast shall bother you no more.”
“What?!?” Gwar moved ominously towards me, flexing the rippling muscles of his twenty foot frame. Pointing his pitchfork he roared, “what have you done with it, Fiend?!?”
“I? What have I done with it?” I feigned affront as the hood of my robe fell back, exposing the bones of my ancient skull. To add to the effect, I allowed Gwar to glimpse a sight few on your world had ever seen [and lived to tell about] — allowing the hint of a flame to glow from the depths of my eye sockets (9). And then, unnatural as it might seem to you, I let my mandible drop ever so slightly into a smile. “Calm down, you big ox. I have done nothing with it. Our master has taken possession of the blade for himself. You are welcome to ask him if you like.”
Dumbstruck at my revelation, Gwar dropped his weapon to the ground, “Baal-Zebub?!? How did my lord get it?”
“Why I took it to him of course.” And I paused purposely, waiting for Gwar to ask the obvious next question, silently enjoying the inner turmoil I was causing him
“But…but…how did YOU–”
“Get it? Well, if you must know—“
“The Ghast was mine! Damn you, Shedu Mazai! (10)” Here Gwar raised his pitchfork in his right hand, while at the same time reaching over his right shoulder with left hand to draw his sword. With both weapons ready, the giant moved threateningly forward. “I battled for it. I won it…I won it from that cursed Drrukka king. Damn him too! You had know right to give it to Lucifer!”
Then after a brief pause the lummox asked, “But WHY did you give it to Lucifer?”
So predictable, so very predictable. It’s almost too painful to watch this mindless ape suffer, I thought to myself. Yet to Gwar I innocently replied, “Why, because our Lord asked for it, of course.”
Gwar took a moment to process what I was saying. Meanwhile I wondered, Should I really be torturing a lesser intelligence like this?
“Stop playing games with me, Skull Man.” Gwar grated. “I will ask you once more for an answer, and if you don’t tell me what I want to hear, then…then…well then, I will just show up at your door and make you tell me in person!” And here GWar viciously flung his pitchfork at me.
Naturally the weapon didn’t harm me (11) and I heard it futilely clang to the ground somewhere outside of the field of vision on my end.
At which point I merely smiled at Gwar’s impotence.
Realizing his powerless position, the God of War railed, “Why did you give it to Baal-Zebub? Is that why you went back to Haaz off-cycle?” (12)
“Zar, my brother,” I said in my sweetest voice, even calling him by his Baal-given name (13). “Isn’t it clear why I gave that magical weapon to our master?” Lounging back in my throne, I casually tapped a bony finger on one of the arms. Then before Gwar could answer, I fixed my glittering stare upon him, “The reason is simple: The Ghast is not of this world. WE – you, I, and Inanna – are not of this world. That weapon was made for ONE purpose: to dispatch us three from this plane of existence forever!”
I paused dramatically to let that last statement sink home, before continuing, “Oh, at first, I rejoiced when I had initially heard of your success in capturing the weapon for our side, but then, when I heard of the malicious theft of it by that harlot Alyzza (14), well, I realized that we three could not allow that blade to remain upon this world. Therefore I knew that I to do my part and try to help you find it.”
Yes, enforce the ruse, brainwashing works so very good! I thought.
Given that I master of lies, I wasn’t surprised to see Gwar being sucked into my web, therefore I continued my embellishments, “Since I knew you would consider it YOUR one duty to find that weapon for our side, I knew that it was also MY duty to come to your aid. For how better could I serve the master than to assist you, friend? Therefore I stopped my experiments and instructed all my people to focus on but ONE mission: to mount an all out search to find The Ghast — at all costs! After that I be-“
“Why wasn’t I told about this?” interrupted Gwar.
“I knew you were busy with your own quest to locate the Ghast, so I thought it best not to bother you. But, tell me, Zar, would you have listened had I summoned you?”
“Of course not.” My rival scoffed.
“Well, then, now you see why I didn’t reach out. Eventually it came to pass that my spies learned that Alyzza no longer possessed the weapon, instead—“
“What? So who’d the bitch give it to? Loki?” In his anger, Gwar slammed his sword point-first into the stones at his feet – where it sank in to the hilt!
The fool is totally absorbed by my tale. I snickered inside as I overlooked his continued interruptions.
When it was clear that the brute was waiting for my next reply, I advised, “It wasn’t Loki. Instead it was Pan. You see, tha–”
“Pan?” Gwar ripped his sword out of the ground and pointed the blade at me again. “Lies! Don’t play me for a fool, Skull Man. Do you really expect me to believe that? Why should that animal Pan ever want a weapon of power?”
“Alas, Zar, that I do not know, for YOU are the mighty warrior not I. In fact, I was hoping you could enlighten me.”
“How should I know? Pan cares for naught but sex and wild parties. He’s far from the warrior class of MY breeding.”
“I agree with you there, friend. Yet, for whatever reason Pan was indeed the Ghastwielder… for a brief time.” And for I looked away, daydreaming.
Total lies. I thought. Oh how I love lies when they hold together so tightly. Why, this torture almost makes the loss of the Ghast bearable.
“Why are you smiling, Fiend?!” The God of Hate’s screams brought me back to reality. He was now literally jumping up and down in frustration.
“Why, Zar, I smile because I am thinking back to how cleverly WE were able to put one over on their side. Have you already forgotten that Pan no longer has The Ghast?”
“I didn’t forget, Skeletor. I’m not stupid, you know? You said Lucifer has it. I remember.”
So he’s not quite a complete simpleton, eh? I smiled inside before replying. “Yes, my friend, our master now possesses The Ghast – and that is for the best. But hark, what if—
“SHEDU MAZAI!! Stop your games! Tell me right now, how did Lucifer get the Ghast?”
“As I said before, I gave it to him. Do you not remember?” And shaking my head in mock disappointment I added, “honestly, Zar, if you can’t remember what I said only a moment ago, well th—“
“Shut your mouth, Fiend! I can’t take your lies any longer! Give me a straight answer, or I swear, by the Left Side of Baal-Zebub that I will destroy you!!” Seething in anger, Gwar was barely able to squeeze out, “Why.. did you… give…The Ghast… to… to Lu-ci-fer?!?”
That’s when I knew I had Gwar just where I wanted him – and that’s when I laid the final bait
“Naturally I gave the weapon to our master so as to protect US.” And before Gwar would offer a retort, I went on contritely, “You see, Zar, no more lies.” Here I even pushed up the sleeves of my robe past my brittle-looking elbows (15), “Listen to my story, brother, and verily shall you understand.”
Rising from my throne, I pretended to endure the pains (16) it caused me to walk down the few steps of my dais, even picking up my robes a bit to to ensure I didn’t fall. Once my slippers touched the throne room’s floor, I embarked on my next fabrication — even using my bony hands to emphasize major points.
“You see, Zar, while you were looking all over creation for The Ghast, well, I was also looking. Oh, my means of searching might not be as respectable as your methods, but nonetheless, I was trying to do my part. So were my creatures, bless them all. Finally, after months of looking one of my spies observed Pan traveling openly about with his prize – er your prize.” And before Gwar could call me on my slip, I quickly added, “Where was Pan roaming, you ask? Alas, that I do not know. Yet, halt! Worry not about such trivial things. What matters, my friend, is that when once Pan laid down his prize in order to take up his pipes, one of my precious little gupz was there (17). As Pan became lost in his music, my glorious little creature swooped down and pilfered The Ghast for our side! My fearless gupz then dutifully brought it back to m–“
“Why didn’t you immediately send word to me that you had my Ghast?” Mr. Interruptions broke in again.
“I was just getting to that part. Calm down, brother. You see, as soon as my good little creature gave it to me, I knew at once that I had to tell you…so that you could feel safe again. Then together I figured we could use it to overcome the the entire world! But alas,” and here I bowed my head as if I was near feinting, “then came…tragedy!”
“What? What happened?”
With my face buried in my hands I gasped, “I touched the blade.”
“You fool!” Laughed Gwar, his vainly beautiful face suddenly all smiles. “Oh, you glorious fool! Great Shaitan, are you really that stupid? Every warrior knows never to touch his own blade, save with a whetstone to sharpen it, or a cloth to clean it, or a blacksmith’s hammer to shape it. How could the all-intelligent, all-powerful Azazel know so little?” With great belly laughs the God War continued mocking me – and all the while I endured his insults. (18)
“Yes, Zar, it’s true.” I let my hands drop to my sides, the brittle bones of my palms facing outwards, appealing for sympathy. “But I didn’t know as much at the time. Remember, I am not the great warrior you are. Which is the very reason I needed you here to help me. I’d planned to send a message to you at once. In fact I was merely trying to take the weapon from my subject but alas the blade nicked me. That’s when I was stricken by a power so terrible that it was literally consuming me from the inside out!”
Here I needed no lies to act out this ruse — for the painful memory of that reality was only too real!
“So it IS true?” Gwar’s mouth was agape. “The Ghast really does steal our <hellfire>?”
“It is all TOO true.” Wiping my skull, I dabbed at sweat that wasn’t there — as if I’d been worn out from the agony of the recollections. I then made my way back to my raised cathedra to take a seat.
Relaxing into the chair, I continued “Now you understand why I had to tarry back to Haaz. Any hesitation on my part could have spelled my doom. I wanted to call upon you, but in my weakened condition I couldn’t think clearly. All I remember now is that the allure of Baal-Zebub’s call was suddenly so strong, my soul couldn’t resist. And so I took The Ghast hoping he could advise us.” (19)
Beneath my cowl I glanced towards Gwar to see if he was buying it. I noticed he was shifting back and forth a bit and clearly agitated, so I added to my lies, “Looking back now, I wish I would have been able to reach out to you, brother, for surely you would have safeguarded The Ghast. But there was just no time? And I couldn’t just leave it behind. Why even if I’d left the blade with my most trusted servant and sent a missive to you there was always a risk?”
“What risk? Didn’t you trust me?” Spat Gwar.
Leaning forward in my chair I said in all seriousness (20), “My friend, you are the only one I trust. But I couldn’t take the chance that between the time I left and the time you eventually came to retrive the blade, that somehow The Ghast might have be stolen again by one of our rivals.”
“Who would dare steal MY blade?”
“I feared that Loki (21) knew of The Ghast.”
The mere mention of the name of the Lord of the Mountains – War’s chief nemesis – had the desired effect — for Gwar clenched his fists, “Damn Loki! Zebub take him! Arg! You were right. ”
“You see, dear brother, that’s why I took the sinister blade to Haaz. For it could have been stolen while I was gone, and worse yet, it could have been used by someone to injure you or Inanna the way it did me! And oh, how I remember that pain! I would not wish it on even my enemies! Yes, Zar, if The Ghast would have fulfilled its purpose on either of you, I would never have been able to live with myself. Alas, I had no choice, I—“
“Spare me your lies. You don’t care a lick for me or Inanna. Only so much as we serve your purpose. I’m not as stupid as you think. But…”
That might have been laying it on a little thick, neh? I mused whilst Gwar was still prattling on. Casually then did I pick up the other’s words…
“…might say. The fact is that I do believe you.” Gwar finished.
“Why, Zar, I’m pleased to hear that.” I smiled a ghastly grin. “And now, pray tell, what great conquests have you achieved whilst I was gone?”
Thus did I escape the wrath of the God of Hate for my very real theft of The Ghast from him.
But that was in the past.
Feeling better about things, I turned my thoughts from one set of victorious memories to another.
Cackling in delight I basked in the vacuous cacophony that echoed triumphantly back from those dank cavern walls.
Then, once more this day did I let my lipless maw silently mouth that precious word “GRIM” — as if trying it on for size.
“Yes, I must have it….NOW!”
- (a) The trilogy A Grim Future? uses a timeline based on the Amorosi History of the Ages. (b) Substance is the Amorosi name for the planet Terra. (c) The Fifth Age of Substance concluded with the end of the War of the Ghast. (d) If you’re following the Drokka timelines from The War of the Ghast (Book II of The Apocrypha of Azazel) the corresponding date would be AO 888 (After Oz). (e) This date equates to approximately 2477 BC (Before Christ).
- Do you think less of me because I just revealed that? If so, that’s fine, yet just remember, as The Angel of Death, I’ll always have the last laugh on you!
- Remember Illusia is the original name for what you call Hell. Want a refresher on how Illusia was created – read Book I Chapter 2b – The Morning Star.
- You just have no idea what that chill does to my poor bones!
- Why did I have to lose The Ghast? Well, it wasn’t like I had a choice in the matter – when I foolishly touched The Ghast’s blade, I got sucked into The Abyss and fell all the way to Illusia – where Baal-Zebub (one of Lucifer’s many cognomens) gladly accepted ‘my gift’ of The Ghast and then tortured me to add insult to injury.
- (a) Recall Hacktor Derkillez was my pawn who initiated The War of The Ghast. (b) Drrukka is the Gut word for the Drokka people; Gut being the preferred language of my people at the time.
- How was I to know Inanna would be able to develop the magic of that previously useless spell to such a degree that she could not only rule all of Ramos, but worse still, that she’d discover how to use her ill-gotten gift to persuade my beloved Viperz into believing that SHE was the all-powerful goddess of the world, and not I, their original creator? This was a most dreadful error and one which caused me to lose much of my former power over that Temptress. Yet, as you’ll eventually find out, Inanna later got what she deserved! (Let that be a lesson to YOU as well – don’t try to foil me, you’ll always lose!)
- Only Gwar’s image was before me because this was a vision-only meeting. I specifically took this precaution because I anticipated that my brother godling wasn’t going to enjoy our talk and I didn’t want to risk the cruel warrior getting angry and trying to tear my skeletal frame limb from limb.
- You’re wondering – what color are my eyes? I’m glad you asked. It shows your intelligence and I’m grateful that at least some of my readers have a bit of brains. You see most people foolishly think that I, the God of Death, have naught but empty eye sockets within a hollow skull. That’s far from the truth – those who’ve had the privilege of seeing the Gaze of Death don’t often live to tell about it, but at least they see a sight worthy of dying for — they see the fierce hunger for life that ever rages inside my very GREEN eyes. Happy now?
- Shedu Mazai is one of my names in the Gut language.
- Remember this was a vision-only meeting so I was perfectly safe — although I’ll admit that, for a split second, I was so frightened by Gwar’s ferocity that I almost jumped back in fright. ALMOST.
- Haaz is the name for Illusia in the Gut language. If you haven’t figured it out yet, Gut is a language for fools and lesser intelligences – which is probably why Gwar used it exclusively.
- (a) how it pained me to call that lummox my brother. (b) Zar is the name my made up god Baal told the Derkka people to call The God of War.
- Alyzza is the name for the Goddess of Love in the Gut language. Truename Armaros in Illyria.
- Hey, was I the first person to use the nothing up the sleeves trick? I guess so!
- Actually I wasn’t pretending about the pain – my bones are older than you think!
- Gupz is the Gut word for the chupacabra-like creatures I created in the distant past.
- Or at least pretended to. What can I say, I’m a good actor.
- I didn’t want to give Gwar the satisfaction of knowing that I got sucked into The Abyss for my foolish action with the Ghast. Instead I wanted him to think it was my choice – call it a Personal Power moment.
- Loki is the Gut language name for Rhokii – the God of the Drokka. (Truename Uriel from Illyria).