And with His chariots like a whirlwind;
He will bring down his anger with fury,
and his rebuke with flames of fire.
16 For with fire and with His sword
the Lord will execute judgement on all flesh,
and those slain by the Lord shall be many.
Today begins the 6th section of Radiance - Gevurah/Strength - and its time for some revelations about Virgo and Asher's past.
Even in the deep glow of the palace of understanding, Asher could feel that it was getting dark - an indefinable energy was beginning to depart, like coming down from an adrenaline high.
He lay naked in bed, covered to the waist by a silk sheet, resting on a soft red pillow. It had all happened rather suddenly - and where the bed had come from Asher could not quite say, only that it had been there when desired. Somehow, in this place, at this time, it had all felt right.
Virgo was already up and getting dressed, pulling on crimson trousers and a black top embroidered with gold lions - she was certainly beautiful. A bit hard-edged certainly, but she moved so smoothly. Virgo pulled a mirror from a nearby cupboard and began to carefully brush her long black hair. They seemed to have moved to some kind of bedroom, with plush carpets and large mahogany wardrobes, though Asher did not recall ever leaving the beit midrash.
“You should get dressed,” Virgo said, continuing to go through her hair.
Asher hummed absently, agreeing to the general sentiment but feeling lethargic.
“That was nice, wasn’t it?” he said, not really looking at Virgo.
“Yes,” she agreed, a little absently.
“I saw my father, you know,” Asher said, staring wistfully at the crystal ceiling.
“Really,” Virgo said, and it was barely a question.
“The day he died. The dybbuk was there, when he entered my mind, somehow I entered his - I watched the whole thing from the nameless one’s eyes.”
Virgo stopped brushing though she did not turn around, and continued to look into her handheld mirror.
“Anything you want to tell me?” Asher said at last.
“No, not really,” Virgo replied, “had I wanted to tell you I would have explained it all when you and I first met but I suspect that that response won’t satisfy you.”
“So? How did you know my father?” Asher said, sitting up.
“You should get dressed.”
“Not yet, not until you actually talk to me.”
“Fine. First, you should understand that I never lied to you, though I may have omitted certain details that you might have considered pertinent when I approached you in Grand Central.”
Virgo sat in a high-backed chair, leaning on the back as she spoke.
“You are not the first person to embody malchut, of course - truth is eternal and so are we, but the individuals change over the years. I myself became Tiferet over a hundred and fifty years ago but that’s for another time. Before I came to you, Eliav was Malchut, a role he held since well before you were born.”
“About twenty years ago we heard a prophecy from beyond the curtain, that end of the world was approaching, that the son of David, the king messiah himself, was finally coming - but that you, Eliav’s son, would die in the pangs of the messiah’s coming. Your father was understandably upset.”
Asher nodded. In a strange way, this was making sense. His father had travelled a lot before they got divorced - ‘business’ his mother had said, and eight year-old Asher hadn’t questioned it. When he had asked later he was informed that his father was a travelling salesman. It was also about twenty years ago that his parents had begun to really fight - loudly, nearly violently - until Asher would hide in his room and put on a cassette to drown out the noise.
“That was when I began to reach out to you - a music lesson, your first year of college - whenever I could. Eliav and I knew that you had enormous potential. You had an amazing ear for music, a sense of rhythm that seemed bound to your very soul - we hoped that with the right training, you could avoid your fate, learn to protect yourself should the worst occur.”
“So what stopped you?” Asher said.
“There are rules, Asher, I couldn’t force myself on you - you had to open the door yourself but you never did, not until Grand Central. Not to mention your mother - she didn’t want me anywhere near you.”
“Don’t bring her into this,” Asher said sharply, “this is about you and Dad.”
“Indeed, but it is also about Emma. She tried to shield you from us, especially from me - in doing so she may have done you great harm.”
“You don’t get to talk about my mother like that, when Dad left it was Mum that looked after me, loved me.”
“Good, it is right that you should defend your mother. I am simply telling you the truth.”
Asher clenched his fist on the sheet, holding back the indignation that was beginning to boil in his throat.
“Go on,” he said.
“We didn’t know when the messiah was coming but we reasoned that after twenty years of waiting it had to be soon - the demons were getting restless, the Sitra Achra were becoming ever bolder. So Eliav, against my wishes, sacrificed himself for you. His death would open up a space in the Seven for you to fill, and I believe that he hoped it might inspire you to take up where he left off. In this he was correct, though if you saw us together in the hotel, you know I disagreed at the time.”
“You should have told me,” Asher said darkly.
“Why? So you could get yourself killed like your father? Eliav gave his life to try to save yours - I wasn’t about to let his sacrifice be in vain. This way you could make choices with a clear head.”
“Clear doesn’t have to mean empty, I had a right to know.”
“No, you have no rights, only duties - to your father’s legacy, to God and God’s creation. Rights aren’t part of the equation.”
Asher gripped the sheet tighter and clenched his teeth. “Is that it?”
“More or less.”
“If you want me to be part of your plans you had better tell me everything.”
Virgo sighed. “Okay, if that is your wish. We have been involved in your life for longer than even your father ever realised. Rahko receives the word from beyond the curtain, but all of us in the Seven can sometimes catch glimpses of the future, the intricate web of fate and possibilities. For over a hundred years Rahko, Li and I have been working so that you could be born.”
“What do you mean?”
“Rahko arranged for your paternal great-grandparents to meet - a simple matter of delaying a train. Li rescued your grandmother from the death march and brought her to England so she could meet your grandfather. I personally introduced Eliav to Emma at a ball in Cambridge. I briefed your music teacher so you would learn not just guitar but the spirit of the music, the principle of separation that underlies rhythm; we even arranged funding for you to study at Columbia. Who you are today is because of us.”
“Am I supposed to be grateful?”
“No, your gratitude is unnecessary. What we need is your cooperation - we are the Seven and we are all that stand against the chaos. The Sitra Achra has made the first move by taking Mercury and Ostar, but you have already dealt them a serious blow by exorcising the dybbuk.”
“Why me? Why do you need me instead of Dad?”
“I honestly don’t know but every vision we’ve had, every prophecy has included you.”
“Yes but more than that, you are going to save the world.”
Asher shook his head.
“No? What do you mean, no?” said Virgo, sounding deeply irritated.
“I mean no, I won’t be part of the Seven - my decision still stands. What we just shared doesn’t change anything. You lied to me, not directly but you did. We’ll get back Mercury and Ostar and then I’m done - you can find yourself another Malchut.”
“It doesn’t work like that, Asher,” Virgo said again getting up from the chair.
“I don’t care. Fate is just a crutch for the lazy - I don’t believe in God, and I make my own destiny.”
Virgo seemed about to argue further when Rahko coalesced in a torrent of water and ice - “Virgo, Asher - come to the fountain, I have urgent news.”
In another moment he was gone again, dissolving into the floor.
“You should get dressed,” said Virgo again, and left the room.
Asher scowled but got out of bed and began to hunt for his clothes. I’m doing this because I want to, he thought.