"Death is the great equalizer."
Then he shall take the two goats, and set them before the LORD at the
door of the tent of meeting; and Aaron shall cast lots upon the two
goats, one lot for the LORD and the other lot for Azazel. And Aaron
shall present the goat on which the lot fell for the LORD, and offer it
as a sin offering; but the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall
be presented alive before the LORD to make atonement over it, that it
may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel.
– Leviticus 16:7-10
The fifth angel sounded his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen
from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of
the Abyss. ... They had as king over them, the angel of the Abyss,
whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon.
– Revelation 9:1,11
And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the
Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that
ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a
thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it
over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the
thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short
– Revelation 20:1-3
Anchor Balseraph: "And now, Nybbas News Network brings you our exclusive interview with Azazel, the newly crowned Princess of Death. We now join our ace investigative reporter Hackenflast, in Abaddon."
Cut to view of an Impudite in an Armani suit, looking Solemn. Behind him is a dimly lit hall in Gothic architecture, composed of bumpy white things, presumably bones. Miscellaneous demons and damned souls are hithering and thithering, but a number of them are going over the architecture with measuring tapes, taking notes on clip boards. A lot of them look scared (very normal in Hell), but even more look bewildered (not that abnormal) and a few even look hopeful (very odd).
Hackenflast: "Thank you, Toadpipe. Your Highnesses, your disgraces, my thorns, shadies and gentledevils, and damned scum everywhere, it is my great honor to introduce the newest horn in Hell's crown, Azazel, Lilite Princess of Death."
The Shedite holding the camera (and the lights and the mike boom) squelches forward and around a corner. Hackenflast tries to back up suavely, but trips over the bumpy floor and has to flap his wings to keep his balance. The corner turn reveals a much grander hallway, filled with very still demons, centered on a large, pale throne. A black goat sits on it. As the camera approaches, leaving the Impudite behind for the moment, the goat rises and turns into a skeleton in a black robe. It comes down the steps and gives a gracious nod, simultaneously morphing into a cute young woman in a black evening gown and an even darker nimbus, her hair and eyes shiny black, her skin stark white. She smiles. Very warmly.
Hackenflast, oiling back into the frame: "Your Highness, thank you so much for granting this interview."
Azazel: "Not at all. I want to make my position clear." (A balseraph in the crowd behind her is seen to roll all of its eyes.) "Ask your questions."
Hackenflast: "Your Highness, this is an enormous surprise to the infernal public, of course. Would you be willing to tell us anything about how you acceeded to the Word of Death?"
Azazel (smiles): "I'd be happy to. I'll even tell you the trick, since it'll never work again. I inherited the Word from Saminga. He left it to me in his Last Will and Testament. With the last of his will, actually..."
Hackenflast: "So Saminga is– is indeed–?"
Azazel: "Dead. By suicide." (Again the smile.)
Hackenflast: "And can Your Highness give any motive for this suicide?"
Azazel: "Saminga was particularly wary, you know, of any of his Servitors growing too powerful. I am a Free Lilite, but I often did work for him. He often sent me to reduce the power of his minions. In many cases of Wordbound death-demons, I did so by introducing them to a new vice: Force-burning. They can increase their Word Forces by deliberately destroying one of their other Forces, thus consumately serving their Word. In effect, they convert a non-Word Force into a Word Force."
Hackenflast: "But how can a mere demon do that? Doesn't that take the intervention of–"
Azazel: "A Superior. Yes. Saminga himself. I persuaded his, um, overgrown Wordbound into coming to him voluntarily, to have their Forces burned. Rearranged, really. They lost something, yes, but they gained in Word-power, and in their Master's favor. Those that he didn't decide to destroy outright, of course."
Hackenflast: "And Saminga fell victim to this himself?"
Azazel (purrs): "Mm-hm. Did I mention that the experience is ecstatic? For a Death-worded. Might also work for Gluttony. Maybe even Fire. Think about it, kids.... But, yes, old Saminga got in the habit of occasionally sawing off one of his own Forces and giggling as he watched his Word grow. I think people have noticed that, for instance, in recent years, his Ethereal powers weren't all you might expect in a Prince.... As his judgement weakened, he began to rely on me more. Finally, he was almost all Word, just one leeettle speck of Celestial Force left. He so wanted to be all Word, nothing but his Word – think about that, all my peers out there. But a Word's not a Word if there's no one to hold it. So I persuaded him, as his last act, as he became nothing but Word, to give himself to me.
"And here I am."
Hackenflast (swallows drily, twice, before getting out): "And Lucifer has confirmed this ... final gift?"
Azazel (shrugs): "We've never met."
Hackenflast (wobbles visibly): "Would you– Would Your Highness care to tell our viewers about your background?"
Azazel: "Sure. As I said, I'm a Free. I worked off all my birth geases a long, long time ago. I've stayed in the black, geas-wise, for most of the time since, and I've never, never taken service with any Prince, though I have, over the millenia, done jobs for almost all of them. That kept the Game off my neck. Not that they haven't hastled me about once a decade, or more. (Hi, out there, Asmodeus!) I suppose–" (World-weary sigh.) "–it's because I also took jobs for ethereals and for Heaven. But, hey, Free is Free. Hit jobs, mostly. That made it natural that a lot of my work was for Saminga. And I was so reliable. And not even Worded. Made him feel safe. And I want all of you to feel safe, too. Rest assured, I'm even more reliable than ever!" (She blows a kiss at the camera. There's a burst of static.)
(Straightens and smiles brightly into the camera.) "And now for the
Death is under new management. It's clean, quick, and efficient. It's not about rot anymore; it's about results. And it's for hire.
"Do you have people standing in your way? We'll move them aside. Just come in and talk about the price.
"Or are you at the end of your rope? After all, you're in Hell! Well, we can make your second death completely painless, even ecstatic. Deutero-euthanasia! Your ticket out of an eternity of misery! Even if you're a shut-in, our agents will be contacting you. So have hope! (Sorry, Beleth.)
"And, last, but not least, I'm hiring." (Beams into the camera.)
Hackenflast: "Th-th-thank you, Your Highness."
Azazel: "Sure. Come by, when it gets to be too much."
Azazel (whose name means either "goat-god" or simply "removal") is a very old demon, one of the first Lilim created by Lilith, and far older than the late Saminga. She even predates much of the Principality system in Hell. She has long been a poster-demon for Free Lilim, a creditor, not a debtor, so Free she even deals with Heaven, even to the point of going 50-50 with God and getting a yearly goat sacrificed to her by divine decree – said goat to run free in the wilderness.
Asmodeus and Dominic would both like to label Azazel as a Gray Renegade, and would have offed her long ago, except that (1) on the infernal side, she's a Free and thus has no Superior to be Renegade from (certainly not Lilith, who's quite pleased with her), and (2) on the heavenly side, she apparently has that "in" with God or at least the Seraphim Council, probably for services rendered in the way of some smiting, way back when.
Now, as just described, Azazel has supplanted Saminga. The story she told the Media demons was the truth, as far as it went. But of course only the Seraphim Council and Lucifer can go around handing out Words. Them and One other.
Azazel was not sure her seduction of Saminga would really win the Word of Death for her, but she was willing to gamble, since at least she would rid the universe of Saminga, whom Azazel hated for all the usual reasons people hated Saminga. At the crucial moment, Azazel was quite unable to absorb Saminga's Word Forces, even with the cooperation of the deceasing Prince. But there was an Intervention. A tall shadow stepped out of the other darkness and Azazel faced Azrael, the Outcast Grigori Archangel of Death, who offered her a partnership. Azazel accepted.
Lucifer is not pleased. He knows, of course, that he didn't hand Saminga's Word to Azazel, though he has no idea how she got that Word. And he knows how pale a shade of black Azazel seemed to be. He has considered the possibilities that God or the Seraphim Council gave her the Word, or that she actually did get it from Saminga on her own, by her own methods. All of these possibilities are bad news, but the last would be the least bad.
As far as Lucifer's concerned, Azazel is a Renegade now, but he hasn't told anyone else. He doesn't want it known that there can be Renegade Princes. He may tell Kronos and Asmodeus soon, but it may be a long time before the information travels any further. Or he may let everyone think this is a Cunning Plan of his own. That might be safer, and even useful in keeping the other Princes off balance. Sigh. Saminga was so easy to control.
Lucifer also knows quite well about the prophecy in Revelation, about the Abaddon angel that will imprison him in the Abyss for a thousand years, between Armageddon and the Last Judgement.
Meanwhile, none of the other Princes are at all happy about Azazel going poaching among their damned souls with offers of celestial euthanasia, or stealing away their servitors, though some find her a distinct improvement over Saminga in other ways.
Azazel has made lots of changes in Abaddon. First of all, she's remodeling that palace of bones into something much more modernistic, in obsidian. And Abaddon has begun sinking, or something. There are cliffs at the boundaries, getting higher all the time. Probably people will start calling it "the Abyss" soon.
At the bottom, Abaddon has become an endless desert of silver sand. The damned huddle on it or wander over it, each totally alone, never coming in sight of another human soul. Sometimes, they encounter demons; if they are lucky, it's one of Azazel's mercy killers, with an offer of oblivion (which they can take or leave).
Azazel's also changing how Abaddon runs. She's out of the Undead business, for one thing. She doesn't stop others from making them, but she won't strip-mine Forces out of damned souls for grafting into new Undead. When Saminga's supply of extra Forces is gone, that'll be it. Any new Undead won't get that extra Force at their creation.
Instead, Azazel harvests forces by Second Death, her specialty celestial euthanasia, offered to damned souls (and demons) who would rather cease to be than continue in Hell. She keeps all the resultant Forces. She also gets the Forces from the soul-killed victims of her hit demons. These Forces she uses to make more servitors.
Like most Lilim, she doesn't like Shedim, and so far hasn't made any. Rumors are already circulating that this first Lilite Demon Princess has made – or at least has tried to make – her own Lilim, duplicating her mother's trick. Both versions of the rumor remain unconfirmed.
It is dissonant for Death servitors to attempt a soul-kill on the Corporeal or Ethereal planes.
Azazel appears to be re-tuning Saminga's old servitors and making new ones on a highly individualized basis. Perhaps she is still experimenting. There are no set Band attunements yet.
Most of Azazel's servitors have one or more of three jobs: mercy killers, hit artists, or "coroners." None of them cause Disturbance when they kill.
Mercy killers are the ones who offer second death to the despairing, almost always in Hell, though they could dismantle a soul on Earth. Since they must infiltrate the domains of other Princes, who don't want their Essence-generating vicitms killed, they must be consumate sneaks, and have the Songs and skills necessary for that task. Each also has an artifact made by Azazel or one of her trained crafters, which delivers an ecstatic celestial death and stores the Forces within itself. This artifact is almost always in the form of a weapon. The mercy killer then returns to Abaddon and delivers the Forces to Azazel.
Hit artists have similar skills and do the same thing, only their victims are not volunteers. Also, hit artists work for hire, getting paid in geases, Essence, money, or whatever. It is perfectly according to Hoyle (or according to Azazel) to spare a victim who offers you better pay to do so. However, hit artists must split their pay with Azazel 50-50 or suffer dissonance (and her displeasure). The same applies to any mercy killers who get paid for their services.
Hit artists only do corporeal kills on the Corporeal Plane, and only soul-kills on the Celestial Plane, Hell. Attempting soul-kills on the Corporeal Plane produces dissonance. This looks like it might be a sort of natural law for her new spin of the Word of Death (or so Azazel hopes), but it's really because Azazel is, after all, on a secret mission for God.
The so-called "coroners" practice a sort of inverted Rite, called Death Certificate. Other Rites get Essence from the Superior. Coroners generate two points of Essence by performing their Death Certificate Rite at the corporeal death of an animal or person. Physically, this usually amounts to noting the death in a little black book, e.g.:
Mrs. Emma Parkins, 87, 4411 Huguenot-Velloon Drive, Empheusa, California, 2001/04/15, 22:07, heart failure
raccoon, U.S. Hwy 93, near exit 2, 2001/05/01, around midnight, roadkill
This is in addition to the diffuse Essence that the natural processes of death channel through Azazel's Tethers from the corporeal realm. Coroners get to keep one of the two Essence points for themselves, but if they try to keep the other, they get dissonance. It is entirely up to the individual coroner, whether or not they cause the death in question. They have Songs for divining upcoming likely deaths and for invisibility.
Azazel and Azrael intend, as their long-range plan, that Abaddon shall sink ever deeper, away from the rest of Hell, until it becomes a third celestial domain, a neutral black hole, a realm of pure removal. If they are clever and lucky (and blessed?), it will happen gradually, and be accomplished before Lucifer realizes. Then Abaddon becomes a refuge for the Grigori and other Outcasts, and for any Renegade demons who want to come. And the two Spirits of Death settle down to wait, preparing for the day when Abaddon becomes Lucifer's prison.
Azazel has not given out any distinctions yet.
Heaven and the rest of Hell are surprised, of course. Both have a wait-and-see attitude. Both tend toward cautious optimism.
Blandine: "Less horror attached to death, that's clearly good. But not if it makes death more attractive."
David: "She's weakened the cohesion of Hell. Good. And it doesn't look like she'll be any more trouble than Saminga. Maybe less."
Dominic: "The Word of Death was run by something stupid and repulsive. Now the Word-holder is clever and seductive. We should be wary and not put excess weight on her old bargain with God, which I never understood."
Eli: "Well, that was creative. Cool move. Cool lady. I hope she can keep her cool down there."
Gabriel: "The star takes up the key. The locust king is crowned."
Janus: "What a gas! She conned Saminga out of his Word and his life! She'll clearly shake things up down there. That's gotta be good."
Jean: "It will be interesting to see if she can make her own Lilim."
Jordi: "She's one of the few who know how to accept an animal sacrifice. I don't care if her servitors draw Essence from tallying animal deaths, so long as they don't cause them."
Laurence: "She was the most honorable demon I ever knew. I hope some of that survives her elevation."
Marc: "A business-woman, clearly. Usually, a clever opponent is worse than a stupid one, but in this case, we may have an easier time of it, since she seems to lack Saminga's blind malice."
Michael: "We'll face weaker undead and Hell will have a higher rate of soul mortality. That much is an improvement."
Novalis: "Never a friend of peace. But at least she can be bought off."
Yves: [No comment.]
Andrealphus: "At last we are rid of that disgusting Shedite! And did you notice how she did it? You can clearly see my training at work there. But her mercy killers better not try selling their death-ecstasy here in Shal-Mari."
Asmodeus: "So the Renegade has returned to us, in an elegant move. Or has she? Any new Prince must be thoroughly investigated, but this one even more so."
Baal: "Saminga supported my Word. But as long as Azazel does the same, I will accept her just as readily. She could clearly make a better ally if she chooses to. But let's see her ferocity first. Let her mercy killers come; they will only weed out the ones with no stomach for fighting."
Beleth: "The Word of Death run intelligently. Now that's scary."
Belial: "She wants to steal my fuel! You think I'm gonna put up with that?! And as for burning chunks of myself to stoke up my Word, you think I'm gonna fall for– Hm..."
Haagenti: "She wants to eat my lunch! You think I'm gonna put up with that?! And as for eating chunks of myself to fatten up my Word, you think I'm gonna fall for– Hm..."
Kobal: "What an exit for old Sammy! I like this kid's style. Just as long as she doesn't try to cut into my audience share."
Kronos: "The rotting idiot has met his Fate. Good riddance. Clearly, this one knows how to draw victims to herself. She could be very useful, if she'll exert herself."
Lilith: "You go, girl! The first Daughter Princess! About time!"
Malphas: "Her hit artists are an excellent tool for the Word of Factions. Her mercy killers– what place has mercy here?"
Nybbas: "Finally! I've said for centuries that Death could be given more glamour, and it looks like this girl can do it. As for her mercy killers, I'm not worried; I have my audience sewed up."
Valefor: "What a gas! She conned Saminga out of his Word and his life! But if she tries to run her scams on my turf, I'm ready for her."
Vapula: "A facinating display of technique. As for all the fuss about mercy killers – tut! I have to do the same in my dissection studies and tests to destruction. There are always more damned, and it's no more than they deserve."
The inverted Coroner rite, part of the Coroner attunement. See above.
+1: a death in progress
+2: a Coroner rite in progress
+3: an offer of 10 or more Essence
+4: an offer of 3 or more Forces (not necessarily your own, though those will do...)
+5: an offer of a recruit
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